The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, is the largest economic stimulus package in U.S. history, and money is still making its way to recipients though it’s been in effect for weeks. That’s because certain restrictions on the $2 trillion fund make it difficult for some families, businesses and even cities to receive the money due to them.
“Unless some of these rules are relaxed, to a degree, a lot of this money to cities may go unspent,” Wichita Falls City Manager Darron Leiker told the Texas Standard on Friday. “Our grant allocation was for an amount up to $5.8 million. We have not received any so far.”
The Texas Department of Emergency Management will only release 20% of Wichita Falls’ allocation right now, Leiker said. The city is also required to spend 75% of what it has received on specific, COVID-related categories like medical expenses, direct public health expenses and payroll for frontline workers. The money cannot be used for things indirectly related to the pandemic, or for things already part of the city budget like overtime pay for essential workers.
“For us, [the remaining 25%] is only about $300,000 to date. You can’t set up programs such as public assistance or economic development grants for small businesses,” Leiker said.
Wichita Falls is taking additional steps to offset the financial burden of the pandemic. All nonemergency spending has been suspended since mid-March, and, to cut payroll costs, the city froze all hiring and incentivized early retirement.
“It’s hard to cut your budget without impacting the bodies, the personnel, in that department,” Leiker said.
The city has not yet laid off or furloughed workers, but may eventually need to do so, he said.
Web story by Sarah Gabrielli.
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