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Minnesota Legislature

House passes Covid relief to cities and counties, supplemental budget items

Rep. Paul Marquart makes closing comments on his bill, SSSF47, which would, in part, provide federal funds to counties, cities, and towns for expenses related to COVID-19, during floor debate June 19. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Money from the federal coronavirus relief bill would be on its way to cities and counties if a bill approved by the House Friday morning can get through the Senate a second time.

As amended, SSHF128/SSSF47* was passed 77-55 and returned to the Senate because of an amendment added Thursday by the House Ways and Means Committee.

It contains provisions from the governor’s supplemental budget, and that was a sticking point for many Republicans.

“You have successfully put that $841 million of federal money in danger,” said House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown).

The bill would distribute federal funds to the state’s cities and counties according to a formula devised by representatives from the House and Senate DFL and Republican caucuses. Provisions added since Senate passage include appropriations for human services, corrections and the financially threatened Minnesota Zoo, among other recipients.

Details on how the funds would be allocated were outlined at Thursday’s hearing.

“The dollars would get out on June 30,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth). “And this would allow local communities to collaborate with one another. We also added another $30 million that would be need-based and deal with (COVID-19) hot spots that arise. The total amount going out would be about $871 million.”

As for suggestions from Daudt that the bill would add to the state’s deficit, Marquart said, “In this biennium, $148 million is transferred, so the net to the state from the General Fund is a savings of $7 million.”

Amendments added on the House floor Friday would expand foster care licensing and child care block grant allocations from federal dollars.

“With this bill, we can send a very clear message to these folks that we have your backs,” Marquart said. “We can tell our nurses, law enforcement, first responders, firefighters and personal care attendants that we have their backs.”

The original bill was passed 62-4 by the Senate on Tuesday. Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Vernon Center) is the sponsor in that body.

As to the controversy around adding supplemental budget items to the coronavirus relief funding, Marquart said, “I know there are concerns with the process, but the agreement on the $841 million is intact.

“There’s no constitutional deadline that we have to adjourn today. But the Senate has unilaterally decided that we’re done today. If they really care about our nurses, personal care attendants and child care providers, they will not adjourn today. If they don’t agree with this, let’s work it out.”

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