Council could hear plan on CARES Act relief in the coming months

ABERDEEN, S.D. (By Elisa Sand – Aberdeen is one of several cities and counties across the state that will take advantage of federal stimulus funding awarded earlier this year.

Aberdeen qualified for $6.4 million through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also referred to as the CARES act. Brown County could see reimbursement for up to $2.6 million.

Gov. Kristi Noem announced the funding in a news conference in June. The funding was part of the federally approved stimulus package assembled in response to COVID-19.

The money cannot be used to offset lost city revenues, Noem said in her funding announcement earlier this summer, but funds can be used to reimburse expenses for things like personal protection equipment, shelters for those who were exposed to the virus, extra staffing for call centers and labs, testing supplies and equipment, emergency responses that required extra work and the like.

In an interview this week, City Manager Joe Gaa said the funds can also be used to reimburse salaries for police officers and employees at Aberdeen Fire & Rescue.

Gaa said between salaries and expenses for personal protective equipment, plastic barriers and other unbudgeted expenses, the city should hit its full $6.4 million.

The Sioux Falls City Council heard a proposal recently to take its budget savings and pay down three outstanding loans. Sioux Falls qualified for $41.5 million in CARES act funding. No decision was made at the time the idea was presented.

Gaa said he’s not keen on using funds for general debt reduction in Aberdeen, but he did say he will likely have a plan before the council in the next 30 to 60 days. In general, he said, one logical move is to set aside some of the funds for future expenses related to personal protective equipment and unanticipated COVID-19 related expenses.

He also said another option would be to use the funding in those parts of the budget that saw CARES act funding relief. As an example, he said, the police and fire department budgets will see salaries reimbursed through the CARES act, so, maybe there’s another part of those budgets that could benefit, like, for instance, using a portion to pay down debt on a fire truck.

All reimbursement requests are subject to state and federal review, Gaa said. To date, he said, the city hasn’t gone through the reimbursement request process for qualified expenses.