COVID-19, the CARES Act and the City of Shoreline

Friday, May 1, 2020

By Pam Cross

Uncertainty surrounds federal coronavirus relief for cities with populations below the current 500,000 threshold.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he is open to considering additional funds for state and local governments in the next coronavirus relief bill.

The first emergency funding bill, which allocated roughly $8 billion for coronavirus prevention, preparation and response efforts was signed into law March 6.

The second package, named the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, had provisions for paid sick leave, free testing and expanded unemployment benefits. It was signed into law March 18.

On March 27, the third package for the pandemic was passed. This $2.2 trillion bill, called “The CARES Act,” included a Coronavirus Relief Fund of $150 billion for the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the territories and tribal governments. 

Within the states, only cities with a population that exceeds 500,000 were included. Shoreline’s population is 56,752 (2018).

The Conference of Mayors, which includes Mayor Will Hall, has been fighting hard to get that threshold down to 50,000. This number is consistent with The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, a federally funded program that provides communities with resources to address housing and community development needs.

The ’Phase 4' coronavirus relief bill is currently before congress. Among the many important provisions are funds that can be used by eligible states and cities to cover their necessary costs due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. These expenditures would be incurred between March 1, 2020 and December 30, 2020.

What could this mean for the City of Shoreline? Based on per capita allocation, $1.6M in federal funds might be available to reimburse the City’s expenses in response to COVID-19. Until the bill is completed and signed into law, it is unknown exactly what expenses could be reimbursed.

In preparation for its potential passage, the City has been tracking expenses for personal protective equipment (PPE), signage and blocking access to off-limits play areas in parks, cancelled community events, and the Community Emergency Grant program.

If costs are reimbursed, Shoreline may increase the community grant program to include ongoing needs through December 30, 2020. As restrictions ease and city services return, there will be a need for personal protective equipment for city employees who will be in direct contact with the public such as inspectors, people who work in the field, summer camp employees, and volunteers for city events.

The City of Shoreline, Mayor and Councilmembers continue to show strong support for the community by exploring ways to address the impact of COVID-19. At the same they are investigating opportunities to reduce the impact on the city taxpayers.

When Congress returns to session, there will be a push to include relief for states and cities with populations below the current 500,000 threshold. However, there are no guarantees.


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