The Gadsden City Council on Tuesday voted to accept $1,677,217 in coronavirus relief funds from the CARES Act, pending state approval of the city’s plan for spending the money.
Public Affairs Director Eric Wright said the grant is reimbursement money — the city has to spend the money, then be repaid with the federal funds administered by the state. He said there are restrictions on how the money can be spent and all expenditures must be related to COVID-19.
Hazard pay for first responders is one of the things the city can be reimbursed for, Wright said, and the city has budgeted, from funds received, a one-time $1,000 stipend for all sworn police officers and firefighters.
The proposed expenditures include $201,260 for a small business grant fund to help local businesses affected by the pandemic. Wright said Downtown Gadsden Inc. and the Commercial Development Authority will receive applications and administer the grant program.
Grants would be limited to $3,000, but Wright said the city should be able to assist 150 businesses with expenses they incurred after the COVID-19 pandemic began in March. He said the money could not go to payroll; rather, it can go toward rent and other expenses.
“It’s not a whole pile of money,” Wright said, “but for some small businesses, it could be a real shot in the arm.”
Personnel Protective Equipment and cleaning and sanitation supplies account for close to a third of the grant money. To reopen Moragne Park or The Venue at Coosa Landing, Wright said, the city will have to be equipped to do large-scale disinfection.
Council members uniformly were appreciative of the work Wright, Finance Director Lisa Rosser and the mayor’s office put in to budgeting the grant money available to the city — especially with the hazard pay for first responders and the assistance grants to small businesses.
The planned expenditure of the grant money — upon state approval — includes:
• $285,127 — Personal protective equipment
• $268,354 — Cleaning and sanitizing products
• $234,810 — Medical
• $167,721 — Telework expenses
• $184,493 — Workplace safety preparations
• $0 — Training
• $335,443 — Payroll
• $201,266 — Other (the small business grant program)
The major proposed expenses including medical equipment for the fire department and emergency medical series, such as additional Lucas devices; PPE for public-facing departments, improved WiFi for City Hall, and WiFi for community center parking lots for student use; workplace barriers and sanitizing; crowd control barriers for public events; cleaning equipment for every public facility; laptop kits for remote work by essential staff; a COVID-19 testing trailer as requested by Gadsden/Etowah County Emergency Management Agency; hand sanitizer pedestals; senior citizen COVID kits; small business recovery grants; and hazard pay for fire and police.