ST. PAUL -- Weeks after the federal government distributed aid to states to help pay for extra costs incurred due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Minnesota Senate has agreed upon a plan to distribute $841 million among local governments.
The Republican-controlled Senate on Tuesday, June 16 overwhelmingly approved the plan in a 62-4 vote. The bill now moves on to the Democratic-controlled House for final passage before Gov. Tim Walz signs it into law.
Through U.S. Congress's CARES Act, Minnesota received a total of approximately $2.169 billion, some of which was appropriated by the state Legislature in May, Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, said Tuesday. Tuesday's bill appropriates $841 million that was left on the table to local county, small city and township governments.
Some Democrats representing the Twin Cities metro area cried foul on Tuesday, saying the federal aid wasn't distributed fairly to Minnesota's most populous seven counties, which have been hit the hardest by the pandemic.
But Rosen argued the bill does take those inequities in infection rates into account: Hennepin and Ramsey counties received approximately $250 in aid per capita, compared to $184 per capita in Minnesota's remaining 85 counties.
Rosen said that extra $66 per head accounts for Minneapolis and St. Paul's "very high needs, desperate needs" and disparities in infection rates and economic fallout in the Cities.
"We have looked at this thing from every angle possible," Rosen said in her closing comments on the floor. "The goal was always to make it fair and equitable to everyone."
As of Tuesday, nearly 31,000 Minnesotans have tested positive for coronavirus to date. Over 27,000 have recovered and 1,313 have died from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by coronavirus. More than 781,000 Minnesotans have filed for unemployment benefits since March 16 thanks to coronavirus-related business closures.