DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — Alabama county commissions have denied the claim that they missed a deadline for CARES Act funds, as previously stated by the state legislature.
Every county and city was granted an amount of money to spend on items like hand sanitizer, gloves, and other equipment to combat COVID-19.
Many cities did not spend all the money that was allotted to them, as it could only be used on certain items and had to be approved for use on other projects or items. Instead, this unused money went to the state unemployment coffer.
“The unemployment compensation trust fund has been hit hard since March when so many people lost their jobs, and it was imperative for us to be able to set the rate that has to be set by the end of January for businesses for what their unemployment tax will be on employees,” said Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark.
Clouse explained that putting the unused money into the unemployment coffer was a necessary step for the state, but the Association of County Commissions of Alabama wrote the following letter to the state explaining that that money was specifically for counties and cities and that the timeline of spending the money was unreasonable for what it could be used for.
Members of the Alabama Legislature,
Since Monday, many of you have been approached by local officials expressing confusion and disappointment in the decision to withdraw CARES Act funding earmarked for county COVID-19 response and instead shift those monies to the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. Many of you have reached out to us, asking questions about counties in your district and the future of reimbursements.
Our concern is that it has been repeatedly said that counties missed deadlines, ignored guidance and were slow in filling out applications for reimbursements. All of these statements and impressions are simply not accurate. We want to assure you that counties were on track to file for reimbursement and to utilize their full reimbursement allocations when this unexpected decision was announced.
State Finance Director Kelly Butler has, several times, admitted to us that counties were never given an application deadline for being reimbursed from their allocation of CARES Act funding. Everyone is aware that the expenditure timeframe expired on Dec. 30, 2020. But everyone also realized that counties (and others) would be given time to apply for reimbursement after Dec. 30, 2020, using a new certification and assurance form that was only distributed to counties on Oct. 16, 2020.
On Jan. 8, 2020, the Comptroller’s Office even provided an email to Calhoun County that stated the following:
“There currently is not a deadline for submitting requests.
We just ask that they be submitted at quickly as possible in January.
Thank you for your question.”
Although we disagree with the decision to move this funding, we recognize the decision of the six-member committee was within the provisions of Act 2020-199. But it is important to me that you recognize your county officials and employees did not drop the ball.
Just a couple of hours after hearing of this possible transfer on Friday evening, Jan. 8, 2020, we asked that counties be given two weeks to submit their applications. We were not given that opportunity. But, if a deadline had been established for submitting reimbursement applications, the Association was ready to further assist counties, and the deadline would have been met.Sonny Brasfield,
Association of County Commissions of Alabama
Now, state officials are waiting to see about the second stimulus relief package and that will dictate what direction the state leads toward next.