The city of Aitkin was one of 20 signatories on a letter by Iron Range mayors sent May 15 to Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, asking that Federal CARES Act dollars be distributed to this area.

The letter was signed by Aitkin Mayor Gary Tibbitts, and sent not only to Walz, but CC’ed to State Speaker Melissa Hortman, State Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, State House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, State House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, State Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent and the Iron Range delegation.

The letter recognized the difficulties facing Walz during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying they understand he is dealing with a divided legislature and criticism from those who do not agree with all of his decisions.

“As mayors we may have not always agreed but we have also declared emergencies in our communities and made similar difficult decisions impacting our local residents often in lock step with you, Governor Walz,” the letter reads.

The letter went on to say that Minnesota received just less than $2.2 billion in aid from the Federal CARES Act, with $300 million going directly to Hennepin and Ramsey counties due to them meeting the threshold of more than 500,000 in population.

“Of the balance, per Federal law, 45% of the CARES Act dollars are to be allocated to local governments,” the letter stated. “That equates to $667 million that many local governments desperately need during this pandemic.

“Governor, under the Peacetime Emergency, you have the authority to allocate those funds following federal guidelines. Other states have issued large percentages of those funds on a per capita basis back to the local governments they are intended for.

“As mayors, we are aware of the politics occurring in St. Paul.  Legislators are clamoring for more inclusion in your decision making from the ‘stay at home’ to the allocation of these Federal CARES Act dollars. Bills have been introduced in both the Senate and the House that provide for remittance of those funds based on per capita basis no later than June 15.  Immediately after release of the Senate bill a number of metro-based cities and even Hennepin County began clamoring for a different system of allocation so that they would get a larger portion of the funds than other out-state communities or counties.

“As stated at the beginning, as mayors we recognize the many challenges that you are facing as the leader of our state.  On a lesser scale, we are faced with similar decisions for our residents and communities. The federal government has acted to provide us with some relief and we are asking that you do all that you can to initiate an expedient and equitable process to distribute those CARES Act dollars to our local governments.”

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