In the last six months, the COVID pandemic has forced local governments to dive headfirst into the digital deep end, and move quickly and creatively to stay afloat. Under normal circumstances this would have resulted in chaos and confusion for agencies weighed down by funding and procurement processes. But through Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding, municipalities have been able to quickly acquire, or expand the usage of, applications—like Kofile—that can help ensure the well being of citizens and staff. We’ve now seen municipalities move quickly to employ Kofile for a wide array of online services:
- Subrecipient Grant Programs – As we’ve covered before, agencies quickly rolled out SBA Grant Applications to help local businesses affected by the COVID pandemic.
- Remote Work (Telework) Programs – As agencies shifted to a fully remote workforce, GovOS was used to forms to facilitate telework and work from home
- Virtual Collaboration And Community Engagement – We shared an interview with our partners in Cobb County, GA that beautifully highlights how their team is using GovOS to ensure team collaboration and community participation at monthly online meetings.
- Improved transparency and reporting on CARES Act funds usage – And in one of our webinars, we shared how partners are creating time and expense trackers for future submission for federal reimbursement programs.
What is CARES Act FundingWhat is the CARES Act? It’s a small chunk of the broader $2T Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF). Within CARES, there is a federal component—$376 billion, which is primarily for forgivable payroll loans, disaster grants, and debt relief for current borrowers—and a state/local component—$150 billion set aside for payments to State, Local, and Tribal governments navigating the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. (Image via Wikimedia Commons, published 3/27/20) How does this affect your government? Currently, The Treasury Department is overseeing and administering CRF payments to state and local governments. If a state or eligible unit of local government does not spend all CRF payments that are allocated by December 2020, The Treasury will recoup these funds. It’s worth noting that if a local government unit has fewer than 500,000 residents, it is not eligible to receive direct payments from the U.S. Treasury. However, states that receive a CRF payment are allowed to transfer funds to a local government unit. Deciding which expenditures are ‘necessary’ to maintain the health and safety of the public is up to the local governments. So far it has not been necessary to submit proposed expenditures to the Treasury Department. Counties that receive a payment may transfer funds to a city, town, or school district within the county. A city or county may transfer funds to its state, if that transfer is deemed a necessary expenditure incurred due to the public health emergency. (Refer to the criteria of section 601(d) of the Social Security Act outlined in the Guidance.)
Still reading? Great! Here’s where it gets interesting.Because U.S. governments are experiencing revenue losses but no reduction in demand for services, FEMA has indicated that software purchases are reimbursable under the CARES Act. However, The Treasury has provided guidance that says payments from the Fund may only be used to cover costs that:
- Are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with COVID–19);
- Were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020; and
- Were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020, and ends on December 30, 2020.