Duluth mayor appeals to Walz for aid to address city's 'gaping financial wound'

Federal COVID-19 assistance for local units of government has remained stalled in the Legislature, and Mayor Emily Larson is asking Minnesota's governor to use his executive authority to disburse it.

Gov. Tim Walz (left) and Mayor Emily Larson watch a video at the Local Initiatives Support Corporation's (LISC) Annual Luncheon at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. (2019 File / News Tribune)

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson sent a letter to Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday requesting he immediately provide about $6.57 million in COVID-19 relief funding that should be available to the city through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

Larson had hoped the Minnesota Legislature would release the funding, but it failed to do so.

"That leaves us with a gaping financial wound and hemorrhage that needs to be addressed," she said.

In the absence of legislative action, Larson urged Walz to use his executive authority to distribute the relief funds. The aid may only be used to cover the city's costs related to dealing with the pandemic, Larson noted, pointing out that they can't be used to pay any other expenses.

Larson informed the Duluth City Council on Monday that city staff anticipate a $25 million budget shortfall due to the pandemic and the economic havoc it has wreaked.


In her letter to Walz, Larson described the city's financial position as "dire."

"We, among many other cities across the state, have waited a long time for assistance, and we simply cannot wait for another special session to be called with further uncertainty on legislative action," she said. "Cities are on the front lines in serving Minnesota residents, and we are absorbing the financial and emotional cost of this pandemic."

She went on to write: "We are doing everything we can to cobble the pieces together to address this budget crisis through layoffs, hiring freezes, salary freezes, collectively bargained unpaid furlough days, drastic reductions to core city services, and we know that will not be enough.

"In service to all Minnesotans, I urge you to issue the CARES Act allocations to cities through your executive powers so that we can continue to serve our communities without further delay or further devastating cuts."

The CARES funding in question was made available to the state March 22, according to Larson.

Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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