News Categories: Legislative

21 Sep
By: MAT Staff 0

CARES Act Resources & Frequently Asked Questions

On June 25th, 2020, Governor Walz announced a plan to distribute $853 million in federal funding to Minnesota communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding was authorized by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Local governments can use the funding to support services and grants to businesses, hospitals, and individuals impacted by the pandemic. The specific aid amounts for each township, based on 2018 population, can be found here.

In order to receive these funds, towns should visit the Minnesota Department of Revenue special page with more information and instructions of how to apply for the funding here. But to summarize, towns under 5,000 residents will receive $25 per resident, according to data as recent as 2018. Towns with over 200 residents will receive their funds directly from the State and should work to prevent those funds from intermingling with other township fund, examples on how to do so can be found in the CARES Act FAQ section. Towns with under 200 residents still apply for the CARES Act funds, but the county holds the funds and the town must work with the county to be reimbursed for costs covered under the CARES Act.

In general, the CARES Act assistance can only be used to cover expenses that:

  1. are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19);
  2. were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 (the date of enactment of the CARES Act) for the State or government; and
  3. were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020, and ends on December 30, 2020.


CARES Act FAQ:
There a several frequently asked questions that have arisen, two documents exist to aid towns in addressing these costs:

  • This document is created by the United States Treasurer to address some concerns and questions regarding the CARES Act: US Treasury CARES Act FAQ
  • This Document is created by the Minnesota Management and Budgeting’s COVID-19 accountability office to address concerns and questions regarding the CARES Act: MMB CARES Act FAQ
  • This document will help specifically help townships determine whether expenses qualify for reimbursement: Town Specific CARES Act FAQ

Remember that the town needs a SWIFT ID and DUNS number. If not known by the town can find out the SWIFT ID number by emailing EFT.Helpline@state.mn.us. The town can apply for a DUNS or SAMS number by visiting this page, and more information can be found in the state CRF distribution training slideshow found below. To obtain a DUNS number, follow this link and then register here.

Costs Covered with the CARES Act Funds:
As towns have started to receive CARES Act funds, they have also began spending some of these funds. Below are some examples of costs that towns have covered with the CARES Act, remember that each of these have satisfied all three factors that are required by the CARES Act to spend these funds. A resolution, resolving to spend CARES Act funds can be found here.

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for employees, officers, and town meeting attendees:
  • Increased Election costs, such as, increased pay for election judges, PPE, Plexiglas shields, increased number of voting booths, etc:
  • American with Disabilities Act compliant handicap accesses for different buildings, or changed access routes to aid in social distancing:
  • Automatic amenities to reduce the number of frequently touched objects, these amenities include doors, bathroom sinks, soap dispensers, hand sanitizer dispensers, toilets, etc:
  • Audio/Visual displays for meetings to help reduce need to pass paper or materials, or to comply with the Open Meeting Law:
  • Increased payroll expenses such as increased janitorial services or costs related to researching how to mitigate the spread and properly conduct the township through COVID-19:
  • Broadband infrastructure or hotspots that can be deployed this year, and was not already budgeted for as of March 27th 2020:
  • Computers or tablets for remote work and access or meeting participation:
  • Telephone or video meeting service costs:
  • Donations to food shelves or other social support programs:
  • Grant program to local businesses or individuals. Since grants are not commonly given by towns, it is strongly recommended that the town works with their private town attorney in building this system:
  • Ventilation systems as strongly recommended by an inspector to comply with DEED guidelines – CAUTION – basic HVAC will not qualify as it does not filter; likely need air exchanger and filter system.

Towns may also transfer excess funds to other local governments, a sample resolution doing so can be found here.

Help America Vote Act CARES Act Grant:
The state has also received funds specifically for elections, which was received by the Secretary of State, two primary qualifications must be met for a State to utilize these funds. First, distributions made to states include a 20% matching requirement by a State receiving the funds, which means that a State, receiving these funds must also spend 20% of the HAVA money used to secure the HAVA Grant. Second, HAVA requires ‘projects’ to exist for at least two years to receive the funds. However, the CARES act requires all money to be used or planned to be used by the end of 2020. To solve this potential contradiction, the extra money from HAVA is only used for the 2020 elections, and the subsequent care of materials, such as ballots.

These funds are to be distributed by the Secretary of State through the counties, so long counties agree to a “fair, equitable, and mutually agreeable” distribution plan with the municipalities within the county. So, if the town would like to learn how to apply these funds to their election, please reach out to the county to get some clarification. More information on the HAVA Cares Act Grant can be found here.

CTAS Reporting:
The linked document contains the reporting requirements in order to report these funds on CTAS.

CARES Act Reporting:
Towns over 200 residents that receive CARES Act funds must complete periodic reports (The report form can be found here). Reports have been due 7 business days after the end of the month (e.g., August 11th and September 9th), however, this may be subject to change. If you received distributions prior to the end of August, you must report for August and the months prior, if you received distributions after, there is no need to complete this first report. You may review the instructions and report to the MMB and COVID-19 accountability office here.

August 25 CARES ACT Webinar: For information regarding this form, please watch/listen to the August 25th webinar found here.

ZOOM CARES Act Teleconference Calls:
On July 8th, a Zoom conference call with leaders at the MN Department of Revenue to explain the application process and answer questions.

Listen to the CARES Act Information Zoom Teleconference & Presentation Here:
Password:   8q&4m^P6
Click to view PowerPoint used in teleconference: State CRF Distribution Training

On August 4th, a second Zoom conference call with Minnesota Management and Budget experts to discuss the procedures and take questions.

Listen/View the August 4, 2020 CARES Act Information Zoom Teleconference
Password:     cv7%TNG?
Click to view PowerPoint used in Aug 4 Zoom teleconference: COVID-19 Funding Reporting Presentation (Aug 4 Call)

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16 Jun
By: MAT Staff 0

Legislative Update: Proposed Distribution for Federal COVID-19 Aid

One of the tasks facing the legislature in the Special Session is how to distribute $841 million of Federal CARES Act funding to local governments. Senate File 47 proposes a distribution model in which townships, cities, and counties receive funding for COVID-19 related operating expenses.Use of these funds are restricted to the purposes allowed by Federal law, as we described in this article.

The bill uses population as the measure of the maximum funding available to a town, allowing a township to receive up to $25 per person in the township. If it passes, the initial funding would be distributed by June 30, 2020, and claims for reimbursement could be made until September 15, 2020. The funds must be used for an eligible expense by November 15, 2020, and any unused amount must be returned to the county by November 20, 2020.

All towns would be eligible for CARES Act funding, however, only towns over 199 in population would receive a direct payment from the State for expenses. Towns with population under 200 would need to apply to the county for reimbursement of their COVID-19 related expenses. With proper documentation of expenses, the county must pay the township the amount claimed.

The bill appears to have bi-partisan support and represent a compromise between the House and Senate on the issue. The Senate passed its version of the bill on June 16, and the bill is now in committee in the House.

 

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15 Jun
By: MAT Staff 0

Coronavirus Relief Fund Frequently Asked Questions

The US Dept of the Treasury has released a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) concerning the use of the Federal assistance provided to State and local governments through the Federal CARES Act. The CARES Act funds have been transferred to the states at this point, and now each state is in the process of distributing those funds. However, questions arose about the expenses for which CARES Act funding may be used. The FAQ attempts to describe eligible expenses and program rules.

In general, the CARES Act assistance can only be used to cover expenses that:

  1. are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19);
  2. were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 (the date of enactment of the CARES Act) for the State or government; and
  3. were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020, and ends on December 30, 2020.

The FAQ provides more detail about the eligible expenditures. Townships should treat CARES Act money as a restricted fund, similar to State Gas Tax funding, that can be used only for its intended purposes and never transferred to an ineligible purpose. The money cannot be used for revenue replacement, so it cannot be used to pay resident’s property tax bills or utility bills.

Coronavirus-Relief-Fund-Frequently-Asked-Questions(1)

Two of most relevant answers from that document are below:   

The Guidance says that funding can be used to meet payroll expenses for public safety, public health, health care, human services, and similar employees whose services are substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency. How does a government determine whether payroll expenses for a given employee satisfy the “substantially dedicated” condition?

The Fund is designed to provide ready funding to address unforeseen financial needs and risks created by the COVID-19 public health emergency. For this reason, and as a matter of administrative convenience in light of the emergency nature of this program, a State, territorial, local, or Tribal government may presume that payroll costs for public health and public safety employees are payments for services substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency, unless the chief executive (or equivalent) of the relevant government determines that specific circumstances indicate otherwise.

 

The Guidance states that the Fund may support a “broad range of uses” including payroll expenses for several classes of employees whose services are “substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency.” What are some examples of types of covered employees?

The Guidance provides examples of broad classes of employees whose payroll expenses would be eligible expenses under the Fund. These classes of employees include public safety, public health, health care, human services, and similar employees whose services are substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Payroll and benefit costs associated with public employees who could have been furloughed or otherwise laid off but who were instead repurposed to perform previously unbudgeted functions substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency are also covered. Other eligible expenditures include payroll and benefit costs of educational support staff or faculty responsible for developing online learning capabilities necessary to continue educational instruction in response to COVID-19-related school closures. Please see the Guidance for a discussion of what is meant by an expense that was not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020.

More Information can be found at the US Dept of the Treasury’s Webpage for CARES Act support of Local Governments, here.

The maximum amount that each township is eligible to receive through direct distribution (state to township) is found here: CARES Act Fund Distribution to Townships. Townships that do not have a Distribution Amount listed are still eligible for an indirect distribution (county to township).

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