MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Cash-strapped cities and counties left $72 million of CARES Act funds on the table following the Dec. 30 spending deadline. The funding’s now been redirected to the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.
“Counties were never given a deadline to submit their reimbursement applications,” explained Sonny Brasfield, executive director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama. “Everybody knew that the deadline for spending money was December 30, but you can’t spend money on December 29 and submit a reimbursement for it on December 30.”
Brasfield is sounding the alarm over the issue. Counties left behind around $45 million. He says some of that money was spent, but the reimbursement applications weren’t in before the window closed on Jan. 11. Brasfield said he first heard about the possible redistribution on Friday. Lawmakers on the Legislative CARES Act Committee elected to redirect the funds on Monday.
“Everyone at least at the county level believed we would have a window of time to submit applications,” Brasfield added. “What we really asked for and ended up not being successful in being granted was for counties to have a couple of weeks to get all the reimbursement documentation together.”
Alabama Finance Director Kelly Butler acknowledged cities and counties were not given a deadline to file reimbursement applications, however, all applications submitted through Jan. 11 would be audited and processed. Butler added the agency would consider subsequent applications submitted after Monday if additional funding is made available.
Montgomery and Elmore counties spent its CARES Act allocation, more than $650,000 of Autauga County’s unspent funding was redirected to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.
$1.7 million of the city of Montgomery’s $9.3 million allocation was also shifted to the trust fund. The city of Millbrook, like many other cities, encountered snags while attempting to spend its allocation before Dec. 30, leaving behind more than $775,000. The city of Wetumpka spent a fraction of its $420,000.
“Knowing that many of our municipalities are experiencing ongoing expenses related to the pandemic, the League (of Municipalities) is disappointed with the decision to reallocate the majority of remaining CARES Act funds originally earmarked for local governments,” remarked Greg Cochran, executive director of the Alabama League of Municipalities. “However, our organization will diligently continue to work with the Department of Finance, as well as our congressional and legislative leaders to advocate for additional funding to address the financial impact COVID-19 continues to have on municipal budgets.”
Brasfield hopes lawmakers will make considerations for local governments when the legislative session begins in February.
“The shortfall in the unemployment Trust Fund was a higher priority than reimbursing counties and cities for their expenses in responding to the pandemic,” remarked Brasfield. “We strongly disagree with that…I think the $70 million that was transferred from cities and counties from our point of view would have been better used to benefit the taxpayers to provide services at the local level.”