The city of Duluth has hashed out a broad proposed plan for how best to distribute nearly $2.15 million in combined aid it will receive via two grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That proposal will go to the Duluth City Council for a vote on Monday.

The stated goal of the grants is that the funds be used "for the purpose of preventing, preparing for, responding to and recovering from the impacts arising due to the coronavirus (COVID-19)." The money will target low- and moderate-income residents.

In putting together a plan, the city enlisted the help of about 45 citizens who participated in an online discussion, said Chris Fleege, director of Duluth's planning and economic development division. The city also opened a seven-day period for public comment.

The plan lays out broad categories of aid, such as $150,000 for "public facility or infrastructure activities" to assist 5,000 people, which Fleege said could be spent to fund "things like a hygiene facility or some broadband infrastructure."

It proposes $200,000 be set aside to support overnight shelter for homeless residents with the goal of assisting 2,000 people. Another $120,000 would go to help prevent homelessness, with the aim of aiding another 2,000 people..

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At a City Council agenda session meeting Thursday night, Fleege explained that the city sets the goals and the targets and then basically solicits requests for proposals from local organizations. "They'll propose projects that meet those goals. They'll put together the programs, and then that's what we move forward with, based on responses from our partnering agencies," he said.

Other funding priorities laid out in the document include:

  • $366,960 for "public service activities" to assist 5,000 people
  • $275,000 for "public service activities for low/moderate income housing benefit" to assist 500 households
  • $127,703 to provide "rapid rehousing" for 250 households
  • $200,000 to create and/or retain 50 local jobs
  • $350,000 to assist 100 local businesses

The plan proposes another $357,454 be set aside for "planning and administration."

If passed by the Council Monday, Duluth's plan will need to be submitted to HUD for subsequent federal approval, as well. A resolution to approve the plan remains on the Council consent agenda for Monday's meeting, meaning that it is expected to receive unanimous support.

The Council resolution states: "The next immediate step is to begin to identify specific activities and programs that are essential to meeting the needs of the community" during the emerging COVID-19 pandemic.

There will be an opportunity for further public review, according to the resolution, which goes on to say: "Following identification of specific activities and partners, contracts to establish those programs will be presented to the City Council for approval."