Cities, counties in line for COVID monies

Meade County had plexiglass installed at the Treasurer’s Office to lessen the spread of the corona virus. The state has announced the Local Government COVID Recovery Fund which will help cities and counties pay for COVID-related expenses. Courtesy photo

BLACK  HILLS — Spearfish and Meade County could get the Northern Hills largest allotments of the newly established Local Government COVID Recovery Fund.

Spearfish could get more than $2.6 million and Meade County nearly $1.9 million in funds.

South Dakota received $1.25 billion in CARES funding from the federal government of which $200 million will be reimbursed to cities and counties throughout the state through the Local Government COVID Recovery Fund.

Gov. Kristi Noem said during a news conference in Sioux Falls Monday morning that funds will be distributed according to current US Census Bureau population data.

The CARES Act money comes with restrictions on how it can be used.

Meade County Commission Assistant Jerry Derr said he submitted information late last week detailing items he believed would meet the criteria for reimbursement. Derr said state officials specifically asked for the cost of sheriff’s department personnel from March 1 through the end of this year.

“One of the bigger expenses was our total law enforcement wages excluding the jail,” he said.

The county also added safety barriers to its offices and purchased PPE for county employees which seem to fit the criteria, he said.

Lawrence County Auditor Brenda McGruder said she was still waiting for clarification on how the funds can be used. But, she, too, said they were looking for figures on law enforcement wages.

Under the CARES Act, South Dakota received a single allocation from the federal government for all of the state’s COVID-19 response. South Dakota’s cities and counties do not meet federal requirements to receive funds directly.

Liza Clark, with the state Bureau of Finance and Management, said during the Noem news conference that the state has developed an online list of Frequently Asked Questions or FAQs concerning the funds. You can find that link at: covid.sd.gov

“One of the big things for cities and counties is that from March 1 through December 30, 2020, they can code their law enforcement salaries, personnel costs, public health and emergency management,” she said. “That gives them those months of being able to code those directly to the allocation of their CRF funds.”

Sturgis City Manager Daniel Ainslie said the city wasn’t sure how much they may be allotted in CFR funds until Noem’s announcement Monday.

 “They had been talking about different ways that it could be distributed. Ainslie said. “Until we actually put in the claims and receive payment, I don’t think we want to say how much we might get. Listing a dollar figure doesn’t mean that the city is actually going to receive that much.”

In addition to salaries, wages and benefits of public safety employees, the city of Sturgis has COVID-related expenses for purchases of PPE, cleaning supplies, and implementing mitigation measures such as plexiglass barriers at city offices.

Spearfish Finance Office Michelle DeNeuisaid the city has several categories of expenses they are considering for reimbursement including public safety salaries, PPE and cleaning supplies, especially that which was used to spray down park equipment twice daily to lessen the spread of the coronavirus.

In addition, the city is looking for reimbursement for costs associated with offering daycare for children of city, Spearfish School District, Black Hills State University, and Monument Health staff during the pandemic ensuring that critical employees could continue to work, DeNeui said.

The details on the allocation for each city and each county is posted on South Dakota’s COVID-19 website- covid.sd.gov.

The City of Sioux Falls will have access to about $41.5 million dollars. Minnehaha County will have around $13 million. Lincoln County will receive up to $4 million.

Noem said entities will have to go through the reimbursement process, which has been laid out by the Treasury Department at the federal government level

“They will be able to access up to that amount of money per entity,” the governor said.

The COVID website has all the links cities and counties will need to access the money, Noem said.

“All reimbursement requests will be reviewed to make sure they meet state and federal guidelines. This is just the first step in the process.

Noem said she would travel to Rapid City on Tuesday as well as Huron and Aberdeen on Wednesday to talk about the program.

The state has received a lot of guidance from the federal government on how the money is to be allocated for local governments, Noem said.

“We do not have any leniency on using these dollars for revenue loss. That is still something we are looking for and I know there are more possible legislative packages that could be moving through Congress that would give us that flexibility,” she said.

Noem said she has been “pretty clear” with the administration and with the Treasury Department that she would appreciate some flexibility.

“That would be incredibly helpful with that $1.25 billion if they would give us some flexibility to use it for revenue loss. I know our cities and counties would appreciate that as well,” she said.

Noem said separate CARES Act funds have already been earmarked for South Dakota tribes and to K-12 and higher education in the state.

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