St. Paul is doling out $4.5 million of its federal COVID-19 aid to tourism organizations that suffered financial hits during the pandemic.

Businesses and nonprofits can apply for a grant from the city online by 5 p.m. on March 28. Applicants must have attracted at least 40,000 visitors to St. Paul over the course of the year before the viral outbreak and provide proof of the pandemic's economic effect on operations.

Eligible organizations include those that draw tourists for arts, cultural or leisure activities, as well as those producing attractions in St. Paul, according to the city's website.

Hotels, individual restaurants, travel agencies, transit organizations and sports teams are not eligible for funding. Neither are groups that received awards from the state Cultural Mall Operator Grant program or the federal Shuttered Venue Operators and Restaurant Revitalization Fund programs.

The City Council approved the use of its federal American Rescue Plan dollars at the group's Feb. 23 meeting. The city was allocated a total of $166 million, a majority of which Mayor Melvin Carter has announced he plans to spend on job and career readiness programs, neighborhood safety and housing.

As St. Paul gears up for its warmer, busier months, Council President Amy Brendmoen said the grants are the city's attempt to assist organizations that might have fallen through the cracks during earlier relief efforts.

Recipients may use the grants to cover the costs of program, services or capital expenditures.

Nicolle Goodman, the city's director of Planning and Economic Development, told council members that Visit St. Paul estimates COVID-19 caused the area to lose more than $1 billion in sales and $70 million in tax revenue.

A spokesperson for the department said the number and amount of grants will depend on how many applications the city receives.