Clay could get $9 million in COVID-19 relief from CARES Act

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GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The county could receive more than $9 million in COVID-19 relief as part of the national CARES Act.

Emergency Management Services director John Ward presented a case for CARES Act funding to the Board of County Commissioners during their June 23 meeting and the board approved some measures that will help shape the future of Clay County. The $9 million the county could receive is only 25% of a large funding pool available to the county. The other 75% will likely be reimbursement-based.

“We were originally requesting $14 million from the State of Florida,” Ward said. “We have since found out that the actual allocation is $38 million for Clay County. The contract in front of you is for 25% dispersal. The other 75% is at the governor’s office. What this is is $9 million. The leftover 75% will more than likely be reimbursement-based.”

As part of the county’s coronavirus relief effort, a team has been set up to handle the funding that will be received as part of the CARES Act. Information Services Director Troy Nagle, who is a part of the team, presented to the BCC Tuesday night what this funding could do for the county.

Nagle said the funding can be used to retrofit faucets, toilets, water fountains and door openers in high traffic locations, and it can purchase new teleworking equipment and security improvements for places like the Clay County Sheriff’s Office. It will help set up a warehouse for disaster supplies, purchase no-touch equipment for local libraries and create a feeding kitchen at the senior center.

The funding will also help municipalities like Green Cove Springs, Orange Park and Keystone Heights in need of coronavirus relief.

“Counties should provide money to municipalities; however, the county is responsible for repayment of funds for things [not eligible with the CARES Act],” Nagle said. “We’d enter interlocal agreements with municipalities and reimburse them as their money is spent.”

There are three main areas the funding will be allocated to, according to Nagle’s presentation. Public safety and health improvements will make up 33% of the funding with 32% of the funding going to improving general government areas for staff and citizens. The remaining 35% will go toward family assistance and restarting business and nonprofits in Clay County.

“The CARES Act requires that the payments from the coronavirus relief fund only be used to cover expenses that are one, necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the coronavirus,” according to Nagle.

“[The second thing] is we’re not accounted for in the budget most recently approved on March 27, 2020.”

The BCC had a lot of questions following Nagle’s presentation. Chairman Gayward Hendry asked if the CARES Act funding should be used for reimbursement of what’s already spent or if it should be used toward new things. Nagle said things like overtime staff payment for police officers and firefighters will be reimbursed through other means and because of that, he recommended that the county use this funding for new purchases and other costs.

Nagle gave the BCC a large list of possible purchases and spending costs. The BCC, wanting more time to go over the list, approved a small portion of the spending and will go over in detail the other sections at a later date. Ward said that with the BCC approval Tuesday night that Clay County is heading in the right direction in terms of handling the coronavirus pandemic.

“Every penny has to be spent by the end of December,” Ward said. “That’s a quick turnaround but I really believe this can impact the face of the future of Clay County.”

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