About $26 million of the $132 million in federal pandemic aid Cobb County received in April remains to be allocated by the county’s governing board, the director of the county’s finance team told members of the board Monday.
The county likely has another $3 million — some county departments that were given money don’t think they’ll be able to spend it by a Dec. 31 deadline — but when the Board of Commissioners meets Tuesday, it will consider a proposal that would use up another $24 million.
That would leave Cobb with just under $5 million it received via the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, one of the largest stimulus bills in the country’s history. The aid has, to date, funded a number of county initiatives aimed at blunting the economic fallout of the coronavirus, including feeding the needy, helping small businesses hold onto their employees and keeping county residents facing eviction or foreclosure in their homes.
Representatives of Cobb’s schools, nonprofits and government departments came before the Board of Commissioners on Monday to provide a detailed account of how they spent the money and how much remains.
Commissioners must quickly decide how to allocate the remainder, given the federal government’s Dec. 31 deadline.
After Monday’s meeting, one area of need stood out to commissioners.
Providers of rental assistance funded by the county’s CARES Act grant told commissioners Monday they would soon run out of money.
Commissioners tapped nonprofit HomeFree USA in September to administer $2 million in rental assistance. Under the assumption the average renter would need up to $4,800, the program approved by commissioners was expected to help about 400 people.
More than 3,500 have applied.
Although the average award thus far has only been $2,460, HomeFree’s Earnest Davis said some $6.6 million would be needed to help every applicant with that level of need.
Star-C, which administers another rental assistance program the county is funding through the CARES Act, said applications for its services have gone up 300% in the past month. Margaret Stagmeier, who detailed the program’s expenses Monday, asked the board to consider allocating another $900,000 in order to keep the program afloat through the end of the year.
But commissioners will consider a proposal Tuesday that would eat up a majority of the $29 million that remains.
The federal government recently told the county it could use CARES Act funds to reimburse itself for part of the payroll costs for public health and safety employees, costs presumed to be “payments for services substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency.”
As such, commissioners will vote Tuesday on whether to use more than $24 million the county received through the CARES Act to cover one-fifth of the money spent on its police officers, firefighters, sheriff’s deputies and E-911 operators since March.
If commissioners approve Tuesday’s proposal, about $4.8 million would remain, according to county finance director William Volckmann.
County Chairman Mike Boyce said he would like the board to decide where the money should go by late October or early November.