DeKalb County holds up CARES Act fund distribution
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By Logan C. Ritchie, contributor
DeKalb County, GA — In an effort to cushion the economic blow of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act was signed into federal law in March 2020 providing $2 trillion in financial aid to workers, families, and businesses.
The state of Georgia received approximately $4.1 billion. According to a letter from Gov. Brian Kemp, local governments’ maximum share of funding is approximately $1.8 billion. Five counties with populations over 500,000 received direct allocations, leaving approximately $1.23 billion remaining for additional allocations.
In April, DeKalb County received $125 million from the CARES Act, but plans to distribute federal funding to its 12 municipalities are on hold.
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A draft of an intragovernmental agreement (IGA) obtained by Decaturish states DeKalb County will distribute $32.6 million based on census data. City managers and city attorneys continue to negotiate the terms of the IGA, which was issued in July.
DeKalb County declined to respond to multiple requests for information. DeKalb’s webpage on the CARES Act was last updated in May.
In addition to the IGA, DeKalb allotted:
– $2.7 million for mental health services including clinical staffing and services provided online, a mobile clinic, and a psychiatric nurse to assist police officers on calls in a mental health crisis;
– $10 million for small business grants; $3 million for promoting PPE, and distributing PPE and food;
– $2.7 million to 30 non-profit agencies to assist residents with an immediate need for rent money, mortgage assistance and avoiding evictions or foreclosures, utilities, and food.
At the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners meeting on Aug. 11, CEO Michael Thurmond said he anticipated an imminent agreement on the terms of the IGA.
“We received a response from the county attorneys and we expect to continue negotiations with the appropriate parties hopefully later this week,” he said. “We hope to have a resolution at some point in the near future with the remaining issues. I feel very positive about where we are, and my expectation is we will be able to come to an understanding and agreement later this week, probably tomorrow [Aug. 12].”
An agreement has not been reached as of Aug. 19. Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst meets with Thurmond this week to continue negotiations.
Both Tucker City Council and Decatur City Commission authorized their mayors to execute the final terms of the IGA. Tucker is set to receive $4.1 million in CARES Act funds, and Decatur $2.9 million. Avondale Estates’ Board of Mayor and Commissioners meets Aug. 19, and declined to comment on its share, $354,891, prior to the meeting.
Under the IGA, eligible expenses include medical expenses; public health expenses; payroll expenses for public safety, public health, health care; facilitation of compliance with public health measures such as food delivery and telework-related expenses; economic support such as grants to small businesses; and other COVID-19 expenses necessary to the function of government.
The IGA draft states within 30 days of receipt of funds, each city must provide a proposed list of spending items to be funded from Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) proceeds. Cities have until Dec. 30 to spend the relief funds.
According to the CRF guidance, payments from the fund must be used to cover expenditures incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic between March and December 2020.
A Tucker spokesperson said the city plans to use the money on programs including small business grants, mask distribution, distance learning, housing, and food insecurity. Tucker City Council meets again Aug. 24 in a work session.
Tucker city attorney Brian Anderson said a spending plan will be sent back to DeKalb before Aug. 25.
City councilmembers Pat Soltys and Michele Penkava urged spending on seniors’ welfare in a special called meeting Aug. 18. “There aren’t too many programs or ways to help [seniors],” Soltys said.
Here’s a breakdown of the CARES Act fund distribution:
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Avondale Estates: $354,891
Pine Lake: $85,519
Stone Mountain: $712,391
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