In the spring, Cuyahoga County received $215 million in federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act. These dollars were a part of a $2.2 trillion overall relief package passed by Congress and signed by the president. The dollars came with strict language and guidance from the Treasury Department, that the money could only be used for direct spending on coronavirus-related expenses. Additionally, the money has to be dispensed by December 31 or it must be given back to the federal government.
These dollars were a part of a $2.2 trillion overall relief package passed by Congress and signed by the president.
Cuyahoga County officials in the Budish administration and county council immediately designated approximately $85 million in June for things like the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE), rental assistance to those who were facing eviction, as well as retrofitting county buildings for eventual public visitors. Additionally, county officials were not sure what the economic impact of the pandemic would have on county finances, so county officials held back approximately $100 million. Officials hoped that the restrictions would be loosened and those dollars could possibly be used towards any budgetary shortfalls that result from decreased sales tax revenue. Over the past few months, however, the revenue drop from sales tax dollars was not as steep as was initially projected.
The county hoped the federal government would pass legislation so that restrictions would be loosened, or extend the December 31, 2020 deadline to spend the funds. There has not yet been federal legislation that has been passed by Congress that would change either of those two stipulations.
The county hoped the federal government would pass legislation so that restrictions would be loosened, or extend the December 31, 2020 deadline to spend the funds.
According to remarks made at a recent County Council meeting, Budish said the county received conflicting guidance on whether or not the $100 million the county set aside would still be restricted to just coronavirus-related expenses, or if the dollars could be used for “public safety” purposes. The Budish administration decided to propose to county council that $64 million be used for payroll expenses of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s department instead of funding these costs through the county’s general fund. As shown in the graph below, this would represent more than half of the Sheriff’s Department’s annual operating budget.
The county still has about $24 million in CARES Act dollars left to spend.
The Budish administration will now go to County Council for approval. If approved, this fiscal maneuver will enable the county to use those newly-freed general fund dollars towards other expenses. It is not clear how those general fund dollars will be reallocated. An excel spreadsheet of the CARES Act spending is available here.
The county still has about $24 million in CARES Act dollars left to spend. With many needs in the community, from food assistance, to eviction protection, to digital inclusion, the county is in a position to explore those possibilities with the remaining funds by the end of the year.