WINSTON COUNTY - It came as a surprise to many officials in municipal and county government that the remaining $72 million from Alabama’s share of the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund not distributed as of Dec. 31, 2020, would be reallocated into the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.
This reallocation is leaving some areas literally holding the bills for items for which they have not been reimbursed, having sent to the state invoices for payments for items towns and counties purchased, earmarked for COVID-19 relief.
The federal Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act, known commonly as the CARES Act, made funds available to municipal and county governments earmarked for costs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CARES Act authorized $150 billion for state and local governments, including approximately $1.8 billion for Alabama, according to the Alabama Department of Finance. These funds were to be used for any necesssary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency regarding COVID-19--to prepare for and/or respond to coronavirus purposes only the department of finance added. No other use of the funds was authorized.
According to stipulations authorized under the CARES Act, local governments could request reimbursement for expenses due to the pandemic, with each entity provided a budget to use when requesting reimbursement of funds these governments spent.
State Representative Proncey Robertson noted the decision to transfer $87 million of the unused CARES Act funding into the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund was to prevent employers who pay into the trust fund from seeing a dramatic tax increase.
“The trust fund pays state unemployment benefits and has been hit hard by the pandemic, being nearly fully depleted,” Robertson stated.
“By making this decision, leadership in Montgomery wanted to help as many Alabamians as possible and as many Alabama businesses as possible,” Robertson pointed out.
“It’s not an easy decision, but there are still opportunities for Congress to pass another relief package tailored toward helping local governments,” he added.
However, municipalities are struggling to find answers to their needs, as some have still not been reimbursed for funds they spent under the CARES Act and now wonder if any additional relief dollars will come their way.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.