Mayor: Demand exceeds supply of local business assistance

“We can help about 100 companies but have more than 360 applications,” Duluth Mayor Emily Larson said in reference to the 1200 Fund. Her remarks came during the city's weekly virtual news conference.

The demand for financial assistance by Duluth firms far outstrips the supply, Duluth Mayor Emily Larson said Wednesday.

“We can help about 100 companies but have more than 360 applications,” she said in reference to the 1200 Fund, which is providing fast-tracked aid to help local businesses survive COVID-19 related impediments. “If possible, we’d like to help every single business, but the 1200 Fund just doesn’t have that capacity.”

Applicants will be notified next week if they have been selected to receive assistance.

“It breaks our heart as we are reading these applications,” added Director - Planning & Economic Development Chris Fleege during a video news conference. “I think we are doing the best we can to help them. We encourage other entities, other foundations, to help with the funding. We’re doing the best we can…but the need outstrips what the resources are.”

Larson said some tourism entities will be affected by the city’s revenue decline related to reduced taxes collected to food, beverage and lodging sales. As yet unknown is the possible decline in property taxes paid. For the first half of 2020, they are due on May 15.

So far, the city of Duluth has laid off 100 employees and not filled 20 open positions.  

“I would argue every one of them is needed,” Larson said of the jobs. 

The city has adjusted the staffing model for the Duluth Police Department, she revealed, putting investigators on patrol. 

“We have more police presence to ensure your safety,” she said, noting that addressing violent crimes is a top priority for law enforcement. 

When asked if the Lester Park municipal golf course will re-open next year, Larson said a decision can’t be made yet.

“I will not make a commitment to that. At this point, we will not make any pre-commitments,” she said.