Counties to DBM: Clarity w/CARES $ Will Help Save Lives

MACo has asked the State for quick and clear guidance on local use of federal CARES funds – where an efficient process and clear guidance on appropriate uses can accelerate needed services in our communities.

MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson sent a letter to Budget Secretary David Brinkley today, informed by input from multiple county leaders, laying out county priorities for the fast-track implementation of the federal CARES funding reaching 19 counties. The three areas highlighted in the letter:

Health Departments can be a partner, but not the true administrator, in local funds/spending used under the CARES Act. Early indications from your letter and its surrounding discussion intimated a hands-on, coordinating role for local health departments with funding outside their domain. This would be an unwise and untoward burden on those agencies, relying on information not readily available to them. Empowering the health departments to review and “sign off” on the financing, personnel, contractual, and equipment expenses incurred by county government could be workable – placing its actual management beneath them would be unreasonable.

Volunteer fire companies have been uniquely disrupted by this crisis – clarify the CARES funding to backstop them is properly reimbursable. Maryland’s volunteer fire and rescue companies have been denied their fundraising opportunities (public events, which are canceled) and are being left short-staffed (career/volunteer members overlap). Counties may need to target funds to help offset their direct costs, augment protective equipment, or otherwise support these disruptions. Ensuring that they may use federal fund allocations from the CARES Act would fully embolden these counties to do so, swiftly.

Further resources, either within forthcoming federal funds, or as a State priority, may yet be needed to maintain our excellent and precious network of volunteer first responders.

Prioritize full, flexible, and clear guidelines on eligible spending. Local governments are responding to their own crises, but its form takes different shapes by jurisdiction. Staff time, protective gear, temporary facilities, and medical treatments are all obvious components of the needed response. Some facets will be less obvious. Timing matters in these crises, so rapid and clear guidance on areas eligible for federal fund use will help each government target its response appropriately. Please coordinate with the appropriate federal agencies, and provide maximum clarity and flexibility in these guidelines.

Read MACo’s full April 20 letter to DBM online: MACo Letter to DBM RE CARES Funding

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties