State Auditor Blaha Presents the 2022 State of Main Street - March 22, 2022
In 2020, local governments had to protect public health, shore up basic public services and infrastructure, and respond to an economic challenge
Saint Paul, MN – Earlier today, State Auditor Julie Blaha presented the 2022 State of Main Street. This event was the culmination of five regional listening sessions that brought together the expertise of local government leaders and our 2020 data. Auditor Blaha, OSA data analysts, and local leaders looked at 20-year local government financial trends to provide context to the 2020 financial data, which represented the first year that local governments received federal pandemic relief funds through the CARES Act.
“The COVID-19 pandemic tested local government entities like nothing else in recent history. Local governments had to protect public health, shore up basic public services and infrastructure, as well as respond to an economic challenge,” said State Auditor Blaha. “The interdependency between economic support, public health, and infrastructure stabilization made targeting resources to local governments a wise choice.”
Auditor Blaha continued, “Many local government entities found ways to get resources into the hands of residents and local businesses to stabilize their finances. In fact, many in local government believe that without robust local economic support, public health and infrastructure stabilization efforts would have been less effective.”
Moorhead Mayor Shelly Carlson echoed Auditor Blaha, “Local government is about making sure that we provide things you will never have to worry about – like snow plowing, making sure the toilets flush and the water is clean, and having someone there when you call 911. It just makes sense to get relief money to local government.”
Hennepin County Commissioner Angela Conley added,” There was no way counties could have survived without the additional support. For instance, we utilized CARES dollars to purchase hotels to ensure our unsheltered population was as safe as possible.”
Stillwater Township Chair Sheila-Marie Untiedt said, "Property tax is our only source of revenue and we work hard to keep taxes down. Our largest expenses are roads and bridges, which we budget out 20 years in advance with a cost schedule that we self-fund by savings."
Brenda Geldert, Executive Director of Options, Inc., a Big Lake non-profit that benefitted from CARES Act funds in 2020 shared her personal story. “The services provided by Options, Inc. are critical to support people with intellectual, developmental disabilities to live and work in our communities. In 2020, we closed our program fully and were not allowed to reopen until June. Service restrictions were very limited and capacity restrictions continued through the rest of year. A very poignant moment for us came when the City of Big Lake, Sherburne County, and Big Lake and Orrock Townships reached out to us directly to tell us about their CARES grant applications. Trusting that our city, townships, and county would help us get this critical funding was a turning point for us.”
As a result of our findings, the OSA has made a series of recommendations. They are:
- Continue using local governments to customize crisis responses
- Tailor federal grants to local needs
- Build collaborative connections before a crisis
- Capture results of pandemic responses
- Protect intergovernmental funding sources
You may read the entire State of Main Street Summary on the OSA website.
Today’s State of Main Street presentation may be viewed in its entirety on YouTube.