One-time aid for cities for a public safety purpose will be sent out on Dec. 26, 2023.
The 2023 omnibus tax bill included $210 million in one-time public safety aid that will be distributed on Dec. 26, 2023, to cities across the state. Unlike local government aid, this aid cannot be used for general purposes, but instead must be used to “provide public safety.”
Eligible and ineligible uses of the aid
The authorizing language in the law provides categories of eligible spending, but the list is not exhaustive. It is also important to note that while legislators expected most of these funds to be used for police and fire expenses, it was intentionally written in a broad way that would allow for other uses as well. The allowable uses named in the new law include:
- Community violence prevention.
- Community intervention programs.
- Community engagement.
- Mental health crisis responses.
- Victim services.
- Training programs.
- First responder wellness.
- Equipment related to fire, rescue, and emergency services.
- Other personnel or equipment costs.
The law also specifically calls out certain uses that are not eligible. Ineligible uses include:
- Employer contribution to the Public Employees Retirement Association Police and Fire Plan if the local unit received police state aid in 2022.
- Any costs associated with alleged wrongdoing or misconduct.
- Purchase of an armored or tactical vehicle or substantially similar vehicle.
- Purchase of tear gas, chemical munitions, or substantially similar items.
- Costs of construction, reconstruction, remodeling, expansion, or improvement of
a police station, including related facilities. “Related facilities” includes access roads, lighting, sidewalks, and utility components on or adjacent to the property on which the police station is located that are necessary for access to and use of the building.
Considerations for cities
Even with these categories of eligible and ineligible uses, there are many areas of spending that cities may have eligibility questions about. Unlike federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act or Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, its unlikely additional guidance will be provided to further clarify how these funds can and cannot be used.
Cities will have to consult with their attorneys and use their best judgment to determine whether a use that is not clearly defined as eligible or ineligible is allowable. However, any use must be to provide public safety. And like with any state funds, their use must be closely tracked and documented in order to respond to any future inquiries or evaluations of this program.
Frequently asked questions about the public safety aid
How much public safety aid money will my city receive? When will we know the certifiable amount?
A PDF of the estimated public safety aid for cities and eligible towns can be viewed via the Minnesota Legislature’s website. The Minnesota Department of Revenue must certify the aid amount to be paid by Sept. 1, 2023.
If my city does not pay for a police or fire department can we still use these public safety aid funds?
Yes, as long as the funds are used to provide public safety. The Legislature intentionally allowed uses broadly so that cities could use them for expenses other than police and fire.
By what date does my city have to spend these funds?
There is not a spend-by date requirement in the law. However, the funds must be used to provide public safety and cannot act as an ongoing reserve.
What are the reporting requirements for these funds?
There are no specific reporting requirements in the law. However, as with all public expenditures, cities must carefully document how the public safety aid funds are spent and be ready to provide that information if asked.
What should my city do if it’s unclear whether a specific expenditure qualifies as an eligible or ineligible use of the public safety aid?
If cities are considering a use that does not clearly fall within an eligible or ineligible use, they should consult with their attorney.
Can these funds be used to reimburse the city for expenses purchased prior to Dec. 26, 2023?
No, a reimbursement for expenses made prior to receiving the funds would not qualify as an eligible use of this public safety aid.
How does the formula work that determines how much aid each city receives?
The Legislature appropriated $210 million to cities for public safety aid. That $210 million was divided on a per capita basis.