Shenandoah County has spent less than half of the $7.6 million in federal aid it received over the summer to address pandemic-related costs as the deadline to use those funds sits two months away.
County Administrator Evan Vass provided an update on the status of the county’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, during which he presented figures that showed the county had spent $2,973,065 of that money, or 39% of the $7,610,656 it received in two disbursals of $3.8 million each.
The federal aid, which is restricted to costs incurred directly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and can’t be used to address revenue shortfalls, must be spent by Dec. 30. Whatever isn’t spent by that deadline is paid back to the state, which distributed its share of the federal relief funds to localities based on population.
As of Tuesday, Shenandoah County’s six incorporated towns had accounted for the largest sum of the county’s CARES Act spending. Of the $1.3 million the county allocated for those towns, $895,109 had been spent.
Mount Jackson ($147,300) and Woodstock ($365,678) have already requested their full shares, while Edinburg ($65,475 of its allotted $74,425) and New Market ($119,955 of its allotted $156,689) had found qualified uses for most of their shares of the money as of Tuesday. Strasburg had requested $196,701 of its available $464,296, and Toms Brook had yet to request any portion of its $18,917.
Vass noted that CARES Act guidelines allow the money to be used for the recovery of public safety personnel expenses, and that some towns with municipal police departments, like Mount Jackson and Woodstock, have dedicated portions of their relief funds for public safety salaries.
“What they haven’t spent on (personal protective equipment), what they haven’t spent on teleworking and virtual meetings, they’ve accounted for by balancing that against their public safety personnel expenses,” Vass said. “And I expect the rest that have municipal police departments will take advantage of that as well.”
Shenandoah County has spent over $700,000 of the $1.3 million it allocated for business support and recovery, and on Tuesday had received requests for $684,311 through its small-business recovery grant program that is handled by the county’s Industrial Development Authority. Vass noted that the county has additionally used $95,320 to aid businesses through the Community Development Block Grant program, meaning the county has awarded nearly $800,000 to small businesses so far.
The county had also received requests for $191,713 of the $452,000 allocated for community assistance programs. Included in that total is $40,000 requested of the $100,000 earmarked for non-profit assistance; $54,000 of the $72,000 allocated for the county’s 12 volunteer fire and rescue companies (each receives $6,000); $67,713 of the $250,000 set aside for the COVID-19 individual relief grant program; and the entire $30,000 allocated for a workforce solutions partnership with Lord Fairfax Community College.
During the allocation process, county supervisors approved $2.5 million for distance learning, of which $303,600 had been requested or spent as of Tuesday. Funds distributed to Shenandoah County Public Schools totaling $300,000 for software acquisition and wifi upgrades to facilitate virtual learning made up a bulk of that money spent.
An individual grant program, for which families with school-age children can apply through the Department of Social Services and receive up to $400 if they qualify, makes up $2 million of the funds set aside to address distance learning costs. Of that $2 million, the county had fielded requests from just nine families totaling $3,600 as of Tuesday. Vass told supervisors he expected that number to go up as word gets out that the grant program is available.
The county, which set aside a chunk of the CARES funds as contingency during the allocation process, has far exceeded its allocated $91,221 for personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies — Vass noted N95 masks are “very, very expensive” — and had spent $193,013 in CARES Act money on those items as of Tuesday.
The county has also spent nearly $180,000 of the $272,813 it allocated for modification of county buildings to better facilitate social distancing and cleaning/disinfection, and $300,665 of the $319,740 earmarked for technological and teleworking enhancements.
Additionally, the county has spent just over $200,000 of the $1.4 million allocated for operational and “other” COVID-related expenditures. That allocation category includes $270,000 for health and human services (of which $9,585 had been spent as of Tuesday) and $636,937 for payroll expenses associated with emergency medical response to COVID-19 (of which no money has yet been spent or requested).
Vass noted that any CARES money the county still needs to spend as the year-end deadline nears would likely best be put toward public safety salaries if supervisors don’t decide on another way to re-allocate some of the funds at a future meeting.
“I don’t know anyone who’s pushed as much (CARES money) out to the community the way you have,” Vass told supervisors on Tuesday, “particularly with the $2 million in the business recovery grants. You’ve done a lot proportionate to how big you are, and I hope folks will pull you aside at some point — 6 feet apart — and tell you, ‘Thank you,’ because you have done a lot.”