Much still must be clarified about the latest federal relief package awaiting House action before its full effects on counties are known, said officials with the National Association of Counties via a briefing call on Thursday, March 26.
NACo leaders, however, were pleased with the inclusion of the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund included in the $2 trillion Senate-approved package that’s aimed at state, local and tribal governments.
Deborah Cox of NACo was able to state that:
45 percent of the $150 billion is eligible for direct payments to local units with populations above 500,000; and
Such funds were meant for recent expenditures due to the public health emergency and unanticipated costs to local budgets that occurred on March 1 or after.
In Michigan, though, only four counties (Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Kent) exceed the population threshold.
Cox and the NACo briefers said clarity was needed about aid to smaller counties and that there already were “100 different interpretations” of what the relief fund language actually meant.
Cox praised the calls from local county officials during the drafting process for helping to ensure counties would be specifically included in the relief fund.
Also critical is that under the economic stabilization sections of the bill, the U.S. Treasury can purchase debt from state and local units, while the Federal Reserve can participate in the secondary bond market for municipal debt, thereby reducing borrowing costs for counties.
Other key elements to the “CARES” Act identified in the call:
- $1.32 billion is allotted to community health centers for COVID response – “a definite win for counties,” NACo said
- Previously planned cuts to hospitals serving the uninsured and underinsured were pushed back to Nov. 30
- $1 billion for agencies for aging to help them deliver meals, provide home-based services, support care-givers and provide equipment nursing homes to protect residents
- $400 million for election assistance in the 2020 cycle
- $56 million for airports in the Essential Air Service program
- $5 billion for CDBG
- $45 billion for FEMA disaster relief fund
NACo’s comprehensive analysis of the bill
can be found her
e. As for eventual timing of the funds, the House still must approve the measure and President Trump must sign it.
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