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Smith announces federal funding secured for northern Minnesota

Funding includes public safety equipment upgrades for Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office; Morrison County United Way Childhood Literacy Program.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., announced federal funding to be awarded to two projects in northern Minnesota.

Funding includes $305,000 for the Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office to upgrade equipment, and $14,000 for Morrison County United Way to support their Imagination Library childhood literacy program, which gives children one book a month for the first five years of their lives (the program is in conjunction with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library).

Sen. Tina Smith
Sen. Tina Smith
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“These are two important investments that will support communities in Northern Minnesota,” Smith stated in a news release, adding the Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office has been using outdated communications equipment and this upgrade will allow them to better meet the needs of people across the county.

“The Morrison County United Way program provides equal access to literacy learning by giving free books to families for the first five years of their children’s lives,” Smith stated. “Reading to young children is one of the best things we can do for them and I’m proud to support this investment to get more books into the hands of the littlest Minnesotans.”

The funding will go to replace aging public safety communications equipment, which will include portable and mobile radios in Aitkin County.

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“The Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office is very excited to receive this funding. We will be able to update our expired radio system to meet new radio mandates without additional burden to the taxpayers of Aitkin County,” stated Aitkin County Sheriff Dan Guida in the release. “I have no doubt this will help keep our community a safe place to live, work, and play! Thank you so much for considering our requests and supporting Aitkin County!”

In Morrison County, the funds will deliver age-appropriate books to enrolled children from birth to 5 years of age. Participating children will receive one book per month until they graduate out of the program and move on to kindergarten. This project serves all of Morrison County and three ZIP codes in Todd County: Staples, Grey Eagle and Burtrum.

“We currently have 913 children age 0-5 enrolled in the Imagination Library program in our service area and have graduated 4,373 children from the program. Based on community input, the board has decided that this program is our top priority and we do not want to have to limit the number of children that we can serve,” said Meghann Boser, executive director of Morrison County United Way, in the news release.

“This funding is making that all possible. We are so grateful for the work that Senator Tina Smith did on our behalf. This funding will have a huge impact in our area — it’s definitely a game changer for us and we can’t express how excited and thankful we are!”

Smith reported she has been an active advocate in pushing for these projects to be funded as part of the federal spending bill, which President Joe Biden signed into law on March 15. Allocating funds to specific state projects like this has not been provided by Congress for the last decade, making this investment in northern Minnesota critical for supporting these communities, the release stated.

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