Searcy officials are considering hiring an employee to “manage the application process” for up to $900,000 in CARES Act funds.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act money could “only be spent for Searcy things,” Mayor Kyle Osborne told the Searcy City Council at its agenda meeting Thursday. “It’s a very complex, complicated application process and we have a very short amount of time to get this submitted.”
Osborne said Searcy will submit an application to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration for review and if it is over a certain dollar amount “they pass it on to someone else to review it.” If approved, the CARES Act money will have to be used by Dec. 20.
Osborne said he would be getting with Searcy City Attorney Buck Gibson to see if the city would be able to hire someone to manage the CARES Act process. If not, Osborne said he would see if the council would appropriate some funds for him to find someone to work with him on the CARES Act application so the city would not lose the money.
The council holds its regular meeting today at 6 p.m. at the Carmichael Community Center, 801 S. Elm St.
Councilman Chris Howell asked the mayor if this was a state or federal process, and Osborne said the city would be reporting to the state.
Councilman Don Raney asked how the funds could be used, to which Osborne answered that it was very complicated.
“We could purchase sterilization items,” Osborne said. He also mentioned they could order wifi connectivity and educational materials for social distancing. “There is a broad range of things but we have to apply then see if it falls within the parameters of what’s allowed. If it’s not, they notify you back and you wasted that much time.
“Is this geared toward COVID type of things,” Raney then asked. Osborne said, “Correct, it’s all related to COVID.”
Raney said he would suggest that it would be worth the money to find somebody who is doing this application process for other cities or helping entities and hire that person to analyze how the CARES Act money could be used. “That’s a lot of money not to try to get.”
“Trying to find someone who has done this before is probably going to be impossible,” Osborne said.
“What would we spend $900,000 on in COVID related,” Raney asked.
Osborne said he would get the council members a list of what is allowed and what is not allowed.
According to the U.S. Treasury, CARES Act funds can be used only “to cover expenses that”
1) “are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019;”
2) “were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 (the date of enactment of the CARES Act) for the state or local government;”
3) “and were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020, and ends on Dec. 30, 2020.”
According to ravemobile safety.com, how the funds are used “is dependent on what expenses were previously budgeted for. For example, a state or local government can use the funds to pay payroll and benefit costs if public health employees who would otherwise have been laid off or furloughed are repurposed to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Other authorized uses of CARES Act funding for municipalities include:
“Public health emergency recovery planning;
“Expenses associated with contract tracing;
“Grants to prevent homelessness due to eviction or foreclosure;
“Loans to businesses to cover COVID-19 response costs;
“Establishing a reserve of Personal Protective Equipment and increasing ICU capacity.”