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Cities allocated COVID relief money

Grand Coulee turning it down, seeing restrictions on the funds

Local cities and towns could soon receive money as part of a COVID-19 federal relief package, but city officials are leery of requirements they may not meet.

“Local governments will soon receive their portion of nearly $300 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) funds awarded to the state to address COVID-19-related costs,” a press release from the Washington State Department of Commerce announced May 8.

“The funds are flexible, allowing cities and counties to use their allocation for everything from public health and human services expenses to small business and economic support,” the release states. 

The funds a city or county receives are based on 2019 population estimates. 

Locally, Grand Coulee would receive $31,650; Electric City, $30,900; Coulee Dam, $33,000; Elmer City, $25,000; and Nespelem, $25,000, according to a list of the funds to be distributed by the Commerce.

By comparison, Moses Lake would receive $726,600, and Spokane would receive $6.66 million due to their higher populations.

Grand Coulee City Clerk Lorna Pearce said that city had to reject the money, finding there to be too many strings attached on how to spend it. It’s difficult to directly attribute an expense, such as an ambulance trip, to COVID-19, she said. 

Elmer City Clerk Gary Benton said the town simply hasn’t had any COVID-19 related expenses on which to use the money. 

City clerks from Electric City and Coulee Dam both said they would be keeping lists of COVID-19 related expenses, but it is too soon to say if they could accept and spend the money. Their city councils still needed to discuss the matter. 

Counties will also receive money.

Locally, Douglas County will receive $2,355,100; Grant County will receive $5,430,700; Okanogan County will receive $2,350,150; and Lincoln County will receive $602,800. 

“Cities and counties are the places we live — and they are the governments closest to the people. They are taking extraordinary measures to protect their residents during the COVID-19 pandemic while continuing to provide the basic services we all rely on,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. “Commerce is committed to moving these critical dollars as quickly as possible so communities can plan and prepare for safe reopening and recovery.”

Funds may be used for costs incurred by the local government in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency from Mar. 1 through Oct. 31. Allowable expenses include, but are not limited to:

Medical and public health expenses.

Payroll expenses for public safety, public health, health care, human services, and similar employees whose services are substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the emergency.

Expenses of actions to facilitate compliance with public health measures.

Expenses associated with the provision of economic support in connection with the emergency.

Any other COVID-19-related expenses reasonably necessary to the function of government that satisfy the fund’s eligibility criteria.


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