The federal funding now made available to the state ($75 million) to reimburse local governments for COVID-19 expenses is nearly twice the amount ($40 million) municipalities recently told the state that they expected to spend through the end of June, according to state officials.
“We are reimbursing municipalities for their full cost of their expenses to date,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in an announcement Thursday. The money, from the federal CARES Act, also funds testing for the virus and an even larger amount for school district expenses due to COVID-19 — $111 million in Connecticut.
The funds, which must be for additional COVID-19 expenses alone, will be given out in future months as well, according to an announcement from Gov. Ned Lamont’s office. School districts will get a share of $111 million from Connecticut’s portion of the CARES Act funding.
Here’s the announcement released by the Governor’s Office:
Gov. Ned Lamont today announced that his administration is establishing the Connecticut Municipal Coronavirus Relief Fund Program, which will set a process by which municipal governments will receive reimbursements from the state using the federally supported Coronavirus Relief Fund to offset their expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are certainly sympathetic to the needs of the municipalities during this unprecedented public health emergency and remain willing to assist them in offsetting their related expenses,” Lamont said. “This first round of reimbursements to our towns and cities is only the beginning. This ongoing situation is dynamic, and we must adjust to the changing landscape in real time. Let there be no doubt, we are reimbursing municipalities for their full cost of their expenses to date, and we stand with them amid the continued efforts to protect our communities from this virus.”
“I can speak from experience as the former chief financial officer of Hartford that we understand how thinly municipal budgets are stretched in this environment,” said Melissa McCaw, secretary of the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management (OPM), the state agency that will administer the program.
“This is only a first step in addressing the municipalities’ direct costs related to the COVID-19 crisis through June 30. The towns and cities across this great state critically require this support through the Coronavirus Relief Fund, and will also be able to avail themselves to other federal and state programs to help with their expenses and hopefully we will soon see federal action that will allow us to backfill lost revenue at the state and local level as that is critically important but remains unaddressed by the four federal COVID relief bills to date.”
In April, the Lamont administration asked all 169 municipalities to provide the state with information on their actual and projected expenses expressly related to combating the public health crisis from between March 1, 2020 through June 30, 2020. To date, municipalities have reported nearly $40 million in direct costs during this period.
Federal rules prevent states from using the CARES Act funding to backfill lost government revenue and require the money to only be used for direct expenses related to the pandemic. To fund this program, the administration is setting aside $75 million and will re-evaluate this allocation for reimbursements beyond June 30.
OPM today sent a letter to every municipality in the state outlining the process for reimbursement under this program. The agency has also launched an informational website for municipalities, with the application portal to be open within the next several days.
In addition to this municipal reimbursement program, the state is using its share of CARES Act funding to cover the large costs associated with testing, the purchase of personal protective equipment, additional assistance to nursing homes, and increased state agency needs that will also directly and indirectly benefit municipalities.
The Lamont administration also previously notified Connecticut’s towns and cities and their respective boards of education about $111 million that is available to them through the Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief Fund (ESSERF), which is also part of the CARES Act.
These funds will help offset increased education expenses, which are typically the largest annual expense incurred by municipalities. This funding will complement the $27.8 million already announced for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund and can be used to ensure each student has access to the technology and connectivity they need for remote learning, improving distance learning curricula, addressing how to safely reopen after the pandemic, and providing social and emotional supports for students.
If municipalities and their respective boards of education have expenses beyond the amounts or eligibility of the ESSERF, they may then still apply for reimbursement under the Connecticut Municipal Coronavirus Relief Fund Program. There has also been a distribution of new Community Development Block Grant funds, Emergency Shelter Grant funds, Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS, and direct Justice Assistance Grants to help with housing, shelter, and transition services for the impoverished, ill, and recently released from incarceration.