Hennepin County receives additional $240M for COVID-19 expenses

David Chanen, Star Tribune
·2 min read

Hennepin County will receive $240 million in federal funding for future COVID-19 expenditures, the second significant cash infusion in the past two years as the pandemic stretches into the summer.

The funding from the American Rescue Act will be paid out over two years.

"The federal government saw the successes of local government in getting the funding to county residents, and we were hopeful they would respond to this," said County Board Chairwoman Marion Greene.

Ramsey and Dakota counties were also awarded federal funds for 2021.

Ramsey County is expecting approximately $108 million and Dakota County will get $83.2 million over the next two years.

The money will be a significant boost to Hennepin County's $2.2 billion annual budget, down about $300 million from the year before.

The latest budget called for no levy increase, which officials said was an acknowledgment of the burden the pandemic placed on taxpayers.

But they noted at the time that the pandemic would put increased strain on county finances, particularly serving the burgeoning homeless population and providing other county human services.

This year's federal funding will serve many of the same programs started in 2020, such as housing for the homeless, small-business grants, rental and housing assistance and closing the digital divide with technology training and other distance-learning initiatives for low-income residents.

The federal government decides spending guidelines and then needs certification from the county before releasing the money, said County Administrator David Hough.

Last year, about 25% of the federal funding from the CARES Act and state grants was disbursed to 6,469 small-business owners. Over 40% of all grants were provided to businesses owned by Black, Indigenous and people of color.

The top three industry sectors receiving grant funds included accommodations and food, personal care services and arts, and entertainment and recreation.

More than $30 million was spent on six sites and services for safe housing for the homeless, $44 million to Hennepin County Medical Center and $6.5 million to support nonprofit and community organizations.

Funding also went to food security, job search resources and reducing the backlog at the license service center. Millions of dollars went to absentee voting, rental and housing assistance and programs to reduce racial disparities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Greene said officials hope to use the new money to create a lasting impact that stretches well beyond the pandemic.

"In 2021 we'll continue the success we had last year in getting critical support to all corners of the county, in ways that reflect the diversity of the county, and the different impact the pandemic has had across communities," she said.

David Chanen • 612-673-4465