Under a new funding model adopted by the state in late August, Albany County is eligible for $2.6 million in funding through the CARES Act, although finding ways to spend the money might be hard.
During a Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday, commissioners discussed ways to spend Albany County’s portion of the $75 million allocated to Wyoming counties by the State Loan and Investment Board. Another $75 million is allocated to cities.
The state board, comprised of Wyoming’s five statewide-elected officials, approved the allocation funding model during a special meeting Aug. 27. Through the federal CARES Act, the state has set aside $200 million to support local governments, with $50 million of that to be saved as an emergency reserve and the remainder split between cities and counties. The aim of the new model is to speed up the distribution process.
The model apportions that funding based on population, the number of COVID-19 cases in the area and other factors. Previously, money was being distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.
Cities and counties still have to apply for the funding, which must be used for direct pandemic-caused needs.
“It’s a lot of money, and we can only use the money for COVID-related expenses and things that are not already approved in our budget,” said county grants specialist Bailey Quick.
So far, the county has been reimbursed $65,500 for three part-time, temporary employees to enforce health orders and variances, and $48,500 for safety operations supplies. Among the expenditures, the Albany County Fairgrounds and Albany County Public Library have purchased protective equipment and supplies.
Quick said the county has about $6,000 it hasn’t spent yet that could be used for more personal protection equipment. The money must be used by Dec. 30.
Commissioner Heber Richardson said he would prefer the unspent funding be reallocated to entities that need it rather than the county spending it just to spend it.
“Sometimes when there’s money out there, people try to spend it and it isn’t the highest and best use of the money,” he said. “It’s better to allow it to go back to where someone else can apply for it.”
Commissioner Pete Gosar wondered whether the county could find a way to distribute that funding to local non-profit organizations, which are facing increasing needs and cuts in state funding.
“We’re seeing growth in the needs of housing, utilities, food — throughout the non-profit sector,” he said. “If they don’t quality, they don’t qualify, but these are happening and they’re really COVID-related expenses.”
While the county itself may not have many COVID-related expenses, county residents do, and those needs are falling on non-profits to fill.
“I don’t want to use funds we don’t need, but I think there’s a lot of need that’s hard to address in some of the CARES Act guardrails, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there,” Gosar said.
Quick said the next step would be to communicate with the state board to see if the county could designate sub-recipients and receive and distribute its allocation that way.
Commissioner Terri Jones said the short time frame for distributing the money could hamper the creation of any sort of application process, but the county could also prepare in the event of a second round of federal funding next year.