Tyrrell ponders how to spend CARES Act money

Published 7:54 pm Thursday, July 2, 2020

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Tyrrell County has received $315,342 in federal economic recovery funds through the CARES Act, County Manager David Clegg said June 24.

“This is not a windfall,” Clegg cautioned. “It’s very restrictive, will be highly audited, and must be completely spent by Dec. 20.”

The money can be used for law enforcement and public safety purposes, he explained, which could include allocations to the sheriff, Tyrrell Volunteer Fire Department, Martin-Tyrrell-Washington Health Department, and related agencies.

He added that other counties are also carefully considering where to spend their allocations, because the grantor “will make you pay back what they think you spent wrong,” and that decision will be made after the money is already gone.

Clegg told the commissioners on May 19 that the money can be spent for COVID-related medical issues, public health issues, telework issues, salaries, etc.”

He expressed hope then that some of the money could be used for a recntly-purchased ambulance as well as for some of the outfitting done in county buildings due to COVID-19.

In response to Chairman Tommy Everett inquiry, Clegg said the CARES Act money could not be used to supplant the county’s appropriation to the district health department.

The CARES Act resembles the Revenue Sharing program during the Nixon Administration in that no local matching funds are needed to draw down the federal allocation. On the other hand, Revenue Sharing was very general in scope, much less restrictive in its administration, and multi-year in its duration.

Allocation of the CARES Act funds is expected to be on the commissioners’ agenda for July 21.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) is intended to address the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The original bill proposal included $500 billion in direct payments to Americans, $208 billion in loans to major industry, and $300 billion in Small Business Administration loans.

The bill grew to $2 trillion in the version unanimously passed by the Senate on March 25. The next day, it was passed in the House via voice vote and signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27.

Unprecedented in size and scope, the legislation is the largest-ever economic stimulus package in U.S. history, amounting to 10% of total U.S. gross domestic product.

The bill was much larger than the $831 billion stimulus act passed in 2009 as part of the response to the Great Recession.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates it would add $1.8 trillion to the deficits over the 2020–2030 period, with nearly all the impact in 2020 and 2021.

The bill is referred to by lawmakers as “Phase 3” of Congress’s coronavirus response.

The first phase was an $8.3 billion bill spurring coronavirus vaccine research and development, which was signed into law on March 6.

The second phase was a $104-billion package largely focused on paid sick leave and unemployment benefits for workers and families, which became law on March 18.