By Beth Lawrence

 

Jackson County is set to receive a little more than $1 million in relief from the state to cover expenses related to its coronavirus mitigation response.

The state granted Jackson County $964,886 from the Coronavirus Relief Fund, and Jackson County Transit received $185,069 from the NCDOT CARES Act.

“It will help with the food delivery costs to senior citizens and other vulnerable populations, cover the costs of providing the paid sick and paid family medical leave, to provide improvements for social distancing measures and to enable the compliance with COVID-19 public health precautions,” county Finance Director Darlene Fox said.

The Coronavirus Relief Fund was created as part of the Federal CARES Act. North Carolina received $3.5 billion and apportioned $150 million in a first round of funding for counties with the passage of House Bill 1043. The amount of money allocated was based on Census Bureau population estimates.

There are restrictions on how counties may use the money.

CARES Act funds can be used to cover county transit’s operational costs. Money from the CRF is designated for medical, public health or payroll expenses and costs the county incurs related to compliance with COVID-19 related public health measures.

Thus far, Jackson County has spent approximately $150,000 on emergency response, Fox said. The money was used to run the Emergency Operations Center, cover the cost of medical supplies and personal protective equipment, purchase cleaning supplies, pay for non-congregate shelter for the homeless to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in underserved areas of the population and to cover payroll.

“The CRF funds can also be used to pay for the leave that was approved effective April 1,” Fox said.

Although a county is not required to share the money with the towns inside its borders, Jackson County will.

The county sent letters to Dillsboro, Forrest Hills, Sylva and Webster advising them of its intent.

“Counties can choose to share with municipalities in their county if their expenses qualify as a necessary expenditure incurred due to the coronavirus public health emergency,” the letter states. “It is the intention of Jackson County to work with municipalities regarding expenses that may or will be incurred related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding has specific guidance and restrictions that the county is currently working through to gain a better understanding.”

CARES Act funds are sent as reimbursement for expenses related to pandemic response and CRF money is set to be disbursed soon, Fox said.

The letter advised municipalities that HB 1043 also set aside $150 million for future expenses incurred by local governments. That money is subject to approval by the U.S. Treasury for use as revenue replacement.