Virus Outbreak Georgia

Teachers Jennifer Scandle (left) and Renee Roberts (right) hand out a lunch from a school bus as Chattahoochee County schools provide a last meal for their students before summer break on Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Cusseta, Ga. 

(The Center Square) – Three months after Congress passed the second federal coronavirus relief package with more than $4 billion earmarked for state and local governments in Georgia, smaller governments say they have not received their share of the money.

Local governments need the money to cover unexpected costs from fighting COVID-19, such as buying personal protective equipment and paying overtime and hazard pay for staff and first responders, representatives for state counties said.

Todd Edwards, deputy legislative director for the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG), said the most significant challenge counties face amid the outbreak is a loss of revenue. Still, they have to cover expenses that were not budgeted into their spending plans for the fiscal year.

"For example, if someone working in one of our ambulances is exposed to the coronavirus, then that person has to be quarantined, but the county has to continue paying them," Edwards said. "Then, the person who takes their place has to be paid overtime."

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump in March, created the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund, from which $4.1 billion was allocated to Georgia to cover COVID-19 expenses.

The funding can be used only for coronavirus-related expenses from March 1 to December 1.

Local governments with more than 500,000 residents received funding directly from the federal government, according to U.S. Treasury. Georgia can use a portion of the remaining $3.5 billion to help governments with fewer than 500,000 residents.

ACCG and the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) have sent two letters to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, inquiring about the status of the aid. In the latest later sent to Kemp on May 21, the associations asked the money be released in three rounds. The governor's office recommended the formula in response to the associations' April letter.

Under the GMA and ACCG proposal, city and county governments would get a share of $373.5 million in block grants before June 30. The second round would be issued by Oct. 31. Local governments would split $433.5 million to cover expenses through that date. The final round would only be allocated according to need. Any residuals from the first two rounds and an additional $433.5 million would be reserved for the final round of aid.

Edwards said Wednesday the association has yet to receive a response to its May 21 letter.

"I don't know how much and when [the aid] will be dispersed," he said.

Kemp's office did not immediately respond Wednesday to requests for comment.

Atlanta and Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties have received their portion of the federal funding.

The U.S. Treasury dispersed $88 million to Atlanta, $132.6 million to Cobb County, $104 million to Fulton County, $125 million to DeKalb County and $163 million to Gwinnett County.

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for three years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.