093020_MNS_COVID-19_test_004 Zach Archbald Ada Duque and daughter

From left, CORE volunteer Zach Archbald explains to Salome Castro and her mother, Ada Duque, how to self-administer the COVID-19 test each of them were given at the drive-through testing site at the North Springs shopping center parking lot in Sandy Springs.

The city of Sandy Springs will get reimbursed from Fulton County $4.56 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds, the most of any city in Fulton other than Atlanta based on population, but less than what it hoped for.

“This is as far as we’ve gotten the county to go,” Mayor Rusty Paul said of the city’s share of $25 million (and $5 million in personal protective equipment) in $104 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds. “It’s a significant improvement compared to the $2.5 million (originally given) for all of the cities.”

Paul spoke at the Sandy Springs City Council’s Oct. 6, meeting, where the council voted 5-1 to approve an intergovernmental agreement between Fulton and Sandy Springs for the CARES Act municipal reimbursement program. District 5 Councilman Tibby DeJulio dissented.

After the Fulton Board of Commissioners voted in June to approve allocating only $2.5 million in CARES Act funds to 14 of Fulton’s 15 cities (Atlanta had already received $88 million directly from the feds), the cities threatened to sue the county because they felt they deserved closer to about 70% of the $104 million since 99% of the county is municipalized. So, the board approved adding $12.5 million to the cities at its Aug. 19 recess meeting.

However, since the cities’ mayors have said the allocation of the CARES Act funds was supposed to be $174.79 per resident in each city, and the $15 million would equal only $25.03, they continued to threaten to sue.

After the board discussed doubling the funds to $30 million at its Sept. 2 meeting, it approved the extra $15 million at its Sept. 16 recess meeting. But that amount still wasn’t enough, said Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker, who is spearheading the cities’ efforts to get more money.

The cities are in talks with the state in an effort to get $30 million to $40 million more directly from the state, which received an additional $3.5 million from the feds, and $1.2 billion is set aside to help Georgia’s remaining municipalities.

As for Sandy Springs, City Manager Andrea Surratt said the city has spent “well over $5.5 million” on COVID-19 relief, so it will have to dip into its reserves to pay for what the county won’t reimburse it for.

DeJulio was skeptical that the county spent the remaining CARES Act funds wisely and asked “what the county is doing with this money” in Sandy Springs.

“The county has shared with us a spreadsheet and I’ll be happy to get it out to the council,” Paul said. “There have been some (COVID-19) testing sites here in Sandy Springs. Also, the Community Assistance Center has gotten a direct allocation. I think there are three nonprofits that got money from the county. Some spent it on testing, protective gear for our first responders. We have a line item from the county, but we don’t have a breakdown from the county on what was covered by this. … We know some money ($2.5 million) was spent by the county in the city of Atlanta, and the county will get that back.”

DeJulio replied, “Based on the things going on previously with Fulton County, I find a need to question where they spent this money. Is there any chance we’ll get some additional funds beyond this $4.5 million?”

Said Paul, “It’s not likely.”

The mayor also said Fulton has promised to provide the cities with an accounting breakdown on how it has allocated the CARES Act funds. Paul added he’s concerned about COVID-related expenses the city’s fire department has incurred with its ambulance service.

The CARES Act funds cover costs incurred from March 1 through Dec. 30.

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