Your Questions Answered: Federal Assistance for Local Governments
by Aaron Thompson, on June 24, 2020 at 3:34 PM
Last Wednesday, the Azavar and Localgov team partnered with the Illinois Government Finance Officers Association (IGFOA) for an update via webinar on federal funding assistance to local governments. We were glad to be able to host communities from Illinois and have others from across the country join us. Thanks to our partner Steve Price for providing insight on FEMA’s Public Assistance Program. If your community would like to learn more about our risk-free financial recovery program, schedule a free consultation here.
Our discussion focused on the CARES Act (it’s Coronavirus Relief Fund section that supports local governments) and FEMA’s Public Assistance Program. For detailed information on the Coronavirus Relief Fund and Frequently Asked Questions visit here. A number of questions were posed by attendees that we were unable to get to during the webinar, see answers to some of the questions and key topics below.
Watch Webinar Recording: Disaster Relief Funding and Recovery Tools for Local Governments.
Question & Answer
Q: How does my community access CARES Act funds?
Answer: The CARES Act appropriated $150 Billion to the Coronavirus Relief Fund. The fund focuses on directly supporting state and local government agencies and the response to the virus and its impact. Local governments with a population of over 500,000 have received these funds directly from the federal government. For smaller communities, funds will be distributed to the state government who will then make determinations for how local governments will be supported. Stay in touch with relevant state agencies (Governor’s Office, Local Government Agency, Emergency Management) as additional information will most likely begin to be released. Each state has broad flexibility in deciding how these funds should be distributed.
Q: Are local government entities (i.e. taxing districts or other local government agencies) eligible for any of the local government disaster relief and recovery funds?
Answer: Under both the FEMA Public Assistance and the Coronavirus Relief Fund, local government entities are eligible to receive reimbursement for funds related to the COVID-19 response. For reimbursements, costs may only be related to the virus and the response.
Q: Which type of funding source should my local government apply for, CARES Act or FEMA Public Assistance?
Answer: Your community is encouraged to look at all forms of assistance. Under the CARES Act, a number of federal programs were appropriated additional funds to assist with the response to the virus and it’s impact. While some funding needs would best be reimbursed under the CARES Act, additional needs could be best met under FEMA’s Public Assistance Program. Explore all options.
Q: Can the Coronavirus Relief Fund assist businesses or renters in my community?
Answer: There is broad flexibility under the program to give flexibility to state and local government to responded as needed to their citizens. For specific guidance from the federal government, visit here. The FAQ area goes into these questions in further detail. As mentioned above, ensure that this is in line with the state-government-set parameters if the are distributing the funds to your community.
Q: Are legal costs related to COVID related items in governance and human resources an allowable expense with the Coronavirus Relief Fund?
Answer: Legal settlements are specifically prohibited under the law passed by Congress. For additional insight on other legal fees, check with the state agency dispersing Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars in your state.
Q: Is there finance aid in the area of software, digital in-the-field tools, and staff educational opportunities during the pandemic?
Answer: Only costs associated to the virus and the necessary response are permissible under these funds.
Q: We had our city building professionally sanitized before closing it to the public in order to keep employees safe. Is that an eligible expense?
Answer: Per FEMA guidelines for COVID-19 the following is included as eligible reimbursable items: Disinfection of public facilities and areas and other facilities, e.g., nursing homes, in response to the COVID-19 related threats to public health and safety. So yes, it should be reimbursable by FEMA. Additionally, for funds available through the Coronavirus Relief Fund, check with your state agency dispersing these funds for eligibility. Every state has their own process and determination for dispersing these funds.
Q: I have heard FEMA is only covering costs for first responders regarding masks and not including Public Works as first responders. What is actually reimbursable?
Answer: FEMA guidelines for reimbursements include the purchase of supplies needed for response to the emergency and for the protection and health of the public. Normally, the items you listed are eligible items for reimbursement. Additionally, for funds available through the Coronavirus Relief Fund, check with your state agency dispersing these funds for eligibility. Every state has their own process and determination for dispersing these funds.
Q: Do we know for sure that any technology purchased by local government necessary when the stay at home order was declared is reimbursable?
Answer: Technology purchases for employees working from home may be reimbursed by FEMA if the employees are working on COVID-19 emergency response and the equipment is used for the temporary response to the emergency. Additionally, for funds available through the Coronavirus Relief Fund, check with your state agency dispersing these funds for eligibility. Every state has their own process and determination for dispersing these funds.