The federal funding that Shenandoah County has received in the form of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act soon will double.
The county, which received $3.8 million in CARES Act money earlier this year, learned last week it will be receiving that same amount in a second and final wave of federal funds set to soon be doled out to Virginia localities. Shenandoah County supervisors unanimously approved a certification of receipt during a special-called meeting on Tuesday afternoon, a necessary step localities must take by Aug. 10 to get the money.
A letter from Aubrey Layne Jr., Virginia's secretary of finance, that was sent to Virginia’s localities on July 28 states that while the federal CARES Act doesn’t require states to distribute funds to local governments with populations less than 500,000 residents, Gov. Ralph Northam “recognizes that localities continue to experience the same COVID-19 related expenses as the Commonwealth.”
Virginia distributed half of its local allocations to its cities and counties on June 1, and the forthcoming second wave will disseminate the remaining 50% of the $1.3 billion in local allocations the state received under the CARES Act.
“To my knowledge, no one expected that that was going to happen,” Shenandoah County Administrator Evan Vass told supervisors of the second infusion of federal funds on Tuesday. “The Commonwealth of Virginia did not have to share their portion of the CARES Act with localities but it chose to. I regret that the commonwealth wasn’t more clear. Not that I’m unhappy with receiving their dollars, but they could’ve been more clear in terms of their intent when we went through this in May and June.”
The Board of Supervisors on July 7 unanimously approved the county’s allocation of the $3.8 million it received in the first wave. Of that funding, $2.3 million remained with the county itself to address various costs incurred as a result of the ongoing pandemic, while $550,000 went to the Industrial Development Authority to aid local businesses. The remaining $937,707 was distributed among the county’s six incorporated towns.
Supervisors did not hold a discussion or take any action on the allocation of the second wave of funds on Tuesday.
Some critics of the first allocation, District 3 Supervisor Brad Pollack among them, wanted to see the county’s share of the CARES money go directly to residents who had lost employment as a result of COVID-19 rather than to government bodies. A portion of the county’s share of the CARES funds was allocated to the Department of Social Services, which is helping families who are having trouble paying for things such as rent, mortgages and utility bills.
Federal guidelines for CARES Act funding require that the money be used to cover costs incurred directly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and can’t be used to address revenue shortfalls. Layne’s letter states that government officials at the state and local levels have requested that restriction be lifted or that “additional federal funds be provided to address the loss of state and local revenue,” though it adds that “no action has been taken by Congress to allow that flexibility or to provide funding for that purpose.”
CARES Act funds must be used for costs incurred between March 1 and Dec. 30, and Layne’s letter notes that the funds “must be expended” by Dec. 30.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Dick Neese, Vice-Chairman Steven Baker and supervisors Pollack, Karl Roulston, Dennis Morris and Tim Taylor attended Tuesday’s meeting. Baker, Pollack and Roulston attended virtually.