A CLOSER LOOK: $4.5M of Washington County CARES Act funds still on the books

A Closer Look

Treasurer Bobby Hill: There is no timeline to spend the funds

Getty Images.

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Washington County Quorum Court will again discuss how to spend the $4.5 million in CARES Act funds at their meeting on Thursday, March 18, 2021.

“The county did not lose $4.5 million,” said Washington County Treasurer Bobby Hill. “This is additional money given to the county by the state. It allows the county to use the funds based on the payroll for public employees whose jobs are substantially different than their budgeted role,” said Hill.

The above information Hill gave was from the Department of Finance Administration’s program guidance.

“At first we thought it was about receipts, for PPE, but we later learned it could be used for county employees, mainly from the jails and sheriff, whose job functions might have been changed due to the pandemic,” said Hill.

There had been some confusion regarding the limitations on these funds once received by the county or community. 

While they had to provide a list of previous expenditures that were COVID19-related in order to receive the funding/reimbursement, once actually received by the county/city there are not any limitations on the use or a limited time frame.

Basically, they were reimbursed for COVID-related expenditures but have full discretion on how to spend those reimbursed funds.

Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration Director of Communications Scott Hardin.

“It’s unrestrictive revenue and it’s up to the Quorum Court to appropriate the $4.5 million, and there is no timeline to spend the funds,” said Hill.

While the funds are in a subset account of the general fund, it collects interest.

February’s Treasurer Financial Summary, account 1005, Corona Relief Fund, gained $2,412.89 in interest which is money that will stay in that account until appropriated by the Quorum. “It’s unrestricted money and allowed to accrue interest,” said Hill.

Spending money for rental assistance is a bit different.

“[With] Rental assistance, we have to go through Fayetteville and Springdale Housing Authority. We give them the money and they distribute it,” said Hill. In January 2021, the county received $7.1 million from the U.S. Department of the Treasury for Emergency Rental Assistance. Those funds were part of a $25 billion package.

WASHINGTON COUNTY JUSTICES OF THE PEACE

The county normally has 15 Justices of the Peace (JP) and they are elected to two-year terms. Currently, there are 14 because Judith Yanez stepped down on Monday, March 1.

  • Lance Johnson, District 1
  • Shannon Marti, District 2
  • Sean Simons, District 3
  • Judith Yanez, District 4 (Resigned)
  • Patrick Deakins, District 5
  • Lisa Ecke, District 6
  • Sam Duncan, District 7
  • Shawndra Washington, District 8
  • Eva Madison, District 9
  • Robert Dennis, District 10
  • Suki Highers, District 11
  • Evelyn Rio Stafford, District 12
  • Willie Leming, District 13
  • Jim Wilson, District 14
  • Butch Pond, District 15

JP Eva Madison: The ideas range from rental assistance and small business grants to a rainy-day fund or creating a marginal property tax cut later in the year. Madison said the funds should go to avenues still directly impacted by the pandemic since that’s related to the original creation of the CARES Act. So far, “None of it has been spent, although a small portion, around $400,000, is considered reimbursement for unbudgeted out-of-pocket COVID expenses,” said Madison who has proposed an ordinance that will be presented at the meeting on March 18.

JP Patrick Deakins: “Money shouldn’t be spent right away when it’s impossible to know what challenges the county will face down the line. First, the county needs to make sure that it is fiscally secure in providing essential county services. We are still experiencing difficulties and gathering information to make a prudent decision.  I am currently trying to gather a consensus with our small business community to see what are the most challenging issues they are dealing with, and how the county could possibly help. We have to try to ensure that the funds are used the most efficiently and effectively for all the citizens of Washington County.”

CARES ACT FUNDS RECEIVED BY CITIES IN WASHINGTON COUNTY: TOTALS $7M+

  • Elkins: $104,907.79
  • Elm Springs: $74,996.39
  • Farmington: $236,676.42
  • Fayetteville: $2,915,061.64
  • Goshen: $42,430.61
  • Greenland:$51,265.36
  • Johnson: $132,877.92
  • Lincoln: $89,100.31
  • Prairie Grove: $175,348. 15
  • Springdale: $2,896,810.04
  • Tontitown: $97,495.66
  • West Fork: $91,794.32
  • Winslow: $15,490.54

$7,464,627.05 ALLOCATED TO WASHINGTON COUNTY CITIES

On March 27, 2020, the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES Act) became law. Arkansas received $1.25 billion, and $75 million went to cities and $75 million to counties — Washington County received an approved allocation of $4.5 million.

The Washington County Quorum Court meeting will be via Zoom from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on March 18.

Meetings are live-streamed on the County’s YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/washcoar.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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