By Carol Vaughn —
Accomack County will hold a public hearing in June to appropriate around $2.8 million coming to the county as result of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The county should receive the money around June 1, according to Margaret Lindsey, Director of Finance.
The amount is based on population and must be shared with incorporated towns in the country, she said.
The amount to go to the towns, again based on population, is nearly $780,000. That will be distributed on a reimbursement basis because the county is responsible for complying with the terms of the grant.
The money must be spent for pandemic-related expenses and can not be used to make up for lost revenue.
All the money must be spent by Dec. 31.
Lindsey and County Administrator Michael Mason did not immediately make specific recommendations on how to use the money, saying the county had received the information only recently.
One likely use will be grants to small businesses impacted by the pandemic.
“We are very aware that is available and allowable,” Lindsey said.
Towns will be given the same guidelines, and may, if they choose to, provide grants to businesses in towns.
In a separate funding stream, county already has provided information to FEMA about around $48,000 in pandemic-related costs incurred which potentially are 75% reimbursable under FEMA rules, Lindsey said.
Supervisor Billy Joe Tarr said small business grants will be important to Chincoteague, saying the pandemic “has devastated this small town,” which he said “is pretty much the golden egg of the county.”
“If they don’t get some kind of grant, they’re not going to reopen — they’re done,” he said.
The guidelines the county received last week did not specify the definition of a small business, Mason said.
He has asked Deputy Administrator Rich Morrison to begin to develop guidelines for a county small business grants assistance program.
“That’s where we are going to go with some of these funds,” Mason said.
Other allowable uses of the money include to pay for COVID-19 testing; to cover emergency medical response expenses related to the pandemic; to pay for costs to buy and distribute medical and protective supplies; expenses for quarantining people; expenses to deliver food to residents; and expenses to enable teleworking for public employees, among others.
The board also voted to waive, for this year only, the fiscal policy allowing for fund balance contingency in the public school fund to not exceed 1.25% of school operating expenditures.
“I support the request; we are in uncharted waters now,” said Supervisor Robert Crockett.
Supervisor Ron Wolff agreed, but said he hopes the school board will decide to forego employee pay raises this year, as the county did for its employees.