The Duluth Entertainment Convention Center announced Wednesday it will receive a $751,743 Shuttered Venue Grant from the federal government to help it recover from the financial challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Up until now, the DECC essentially has fallen through the cracks in terms of garnering any federal pandemic relief. Back in the first quarter of 2021, it did receive about $500,000 in assistance from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. But federal aid remained elusive.

The DECC employed 468 people prior to the pandemic and cut its staff to a mere 12 when the coronavirus forced it to shutter operations.

As operations resume, the DECC now has about 100 people on its payroll, and communication director Lucie Amundson said the federal grant should allow that number to grow.

"There was much merriment in the DECC hallways, because a lot of people worked hard to make that happen," she said.

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About a third of the funding will go to labor. Another third will go to pay off utility bills. And the final third will cover deferred maintenance costs.

"This is incredibly meaningful for the DECC to be able to use these funds in these three distinct ways: to be able to welcome back staff to the facility, to meet utility obligations and also to just provide a refresh to areas as we're starting to host a full flight of upcoming events," Amundson said.

Additional federal assistance is beginning to flow. The DECC also is poised to receive an anticipated $250,000 from Duluth, as the city distributes more than $58 million in federal aid it stands to receive through the American Rescue Plan.