|7/23/2020 2:38:00 PM|
CARES Act millions: distribution to local needs starts to take shape
The county commissioners got a good start July 22 in a daytime work session laying plans to distribute $6.7 million the county received as covid-19 related financial aid, appropriated through the CARES Act. (Story Press July 2.)
If the work stays on track Chisago County will have its application form ready by August 6.
The county is focusing one of its “pots” of money on small business. Businesses that were forced to close, or were deemed “non-essential,” and shut down, and non-profits impacted by the emergency health situation, can apply for the funds.
Aid payments through the CARES Act were sent out as of July 6 and Chisago County was among the earliest recipients. Local cities Harris and North Branch also made it into the first group to apply and received $87,000 and $808,000 respectively.
The commissioners agreed last week to divide out of its $6.7 million, three “pots” of money and commissioners agreed a maximum $10,000 grant, per applicant, will comprise the first phase.
The County Board discussion set aside $1 million for small businesses and non-profits.
Small business is defined at 50 or fewer employees.
Applicants must be able to demonstrate financial hardship from being required to shutdown, and be able to document expenses they need help paying for, encumbered between March and November 15 for cities and December for the county.
This work session was only for the use of the county’s $6.7 million dispersement.
Cities and townships are receiving their own aid based on per capita formulas. Those smaller local units of government are sitting down in their own conference rooms and determining how best to divide their funds or retain the money for government only use.
The aid comes with restrictions.
A business can use this CARES Act aid for mortgage payments, rent, insurance or personal protective equipment required to re-open. This is not wages, that’s what PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) is for. It is not to replace lost fees for, say, inability to reserve a wedding venue.
Non-profit aid, (food shelves, day care programs, housing relief) is to be funnelled through an organization or agency.
County Administrator Chase Burnham said the non-profits like a VFW or fire relief association-- can’t fill in gaps in reduced pull tab revenue, but can use the aid for covering costs associated with activity impacted when businesses shutdown and the virus restricted commerce.
“This is not meant for revenue replacement,” he stressed.
Save receipts, bills, statements, any documents that might be useful to justify spending your aid, said Auditor-Treasurer Bridgitte Konrad.
She added applicants need to be keenly aware that money used on an expense found to not be eligible, will have to be returned. If part of a grant is unspent, it will have to be returned.
Do not request $5,000 if you can only document and justify $2,500, she explained.
The application form also will be available only to business and non-profits with “bricks and mortar” physical presence in Chisago County.
There can’t be any current tax delinquency and if the business or non-profit falls under a regulatory authority (hair salon, fitness facility, etc) it must be in good standing.
Nancy Hoffman and staff in the Chisago County HRA/EDA office, are reviewing and handling applications in this pot of aid.
Watch for news of when the form goes up online or becomes available in a couple weeks, after being adopted by the County Board.
Another $2 million pot of funds will be retained by the county and earmarked for “public safety and public health” .
Basically this is to avoid levy increases next year for the unexpected bills, or forcing contemporary budget cuts to cover expenses.
The commissioners consensus was this pot will be earmarked for employee hours directly attributable to covid, and for county expenses for hard goods -- like office partitions, sanitizing products. gloves, masks.
The county tally for eligible hard goods alone are estimated at $310,000.
Sheriff Brandon Thyen attended the work session and was asked if law enforcement, for example, spend 20, 50 or 75 percent of their hours on covid-19 prevention and avoidance? The sheriff said some personnel spend a lot of their work week covering strictly covid tasks and others, like jailers, have little specialized time.
This percentage of hours will be reviewed and discussed internally until the policy and application form come to the County Board for action early in August.
All county staff if calculated at 20 percent of their hours, would run $1.9 million in subsidy eligibility, Administrator Burnham commented.