In late July, Representatives Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) and Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) introduced H.R. 7854, the Leveraging Options for Counties and Localities (LOCAL) Act. The bill would extend the deadline for Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) recipients to spend their CRF allocations from December 30, 2020 to December 31, 2021. The CRF was established under the CARES Act and provides $150 billion in aid for state, county and municipal governments with populations of over 500,000 people to address necessary expenditures incurred due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
As established under the CARES Act, if a county – either above or below 500,000 residents – does not spend its entire CRF allocation by December 30, 2020, the remaining dollars will be recouped by the U.S. Treasury. The delay in formulating guidance around this money and the general uncertainty that existed at the beginning of the pandemic and continues today makes it difficult for CRF recipients to meet the December deadline.
Understanding the unpredictable nature of the pandemic and its ongoing demands, the LOCAL Act seeks to provide local governments the flexibility needed to plan for future costs associated with the pandemic in 2021 and beyond. Additionally, the bill the strict deadline does not allow counties to plan for future costs in 2021 and beyond. The bill also encouraged states to distribute a portion of their CRF allocation to counties with populations of less than 500,000 that did not receive direct funds.
Counties are spending CRF funds quickly and wisely. As counties continue to play a significant role in addressing and mitigating the impacts of COVID-19, direct CRF recipients and counties that received sub-allocations from their states have both found creative ways to use these funds to help their communities. From small business support grant programs to homelessness assistance initiatives and broadband expansion, these dollars have been critical for counties to properly respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information and examples on how counties have spent their CRF allocations, click here.
Since the onset of the pandemic, NACo has advocated for direct, flexible federal relief funding for counties of all sizes. A recent NACo analysis revealed that a $202 billion impact on county budgets is expected through FY2021 due to the pandemic. Following the implementation of the CRF program, NACo has advocated for an extension in the CRF spending deadline and to allow these funds to be used to cover revenue shortfalls. NACo will continue to support efforts to improve the CRF and expand COVID-19 relief for counties of all sizes.
To learn more about NACo’s work on COVID-19 response and the Coronavirus Relief Fund, click here.