BOONE — According to Watauga officials, the county will receive $1,164,018 in federal CARES Act relief funds that will be split eight ways to help with the local COVID-19 response.
The plan for how the money will be dispersed was considered by the Watauga County Board of Commissioners on May 19, as plans are required to be submitted to the North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management by June 1. The commissioners accepted the county relief funding plan with no changes.
According to the county, the North Carolina General Assembly authorized $150 million in funding to the 97 counties that did not receive direct federal funding from the CARES Act. In addition, it has $150 million in reserve funds to be appropriated to local governments if local governments experience a revenue shortfall from COVID-19 and if the federal government amends the CARES Act to allow funding to be spent on revenue replacement.
Funding was to be distributed on a per capita basis, with a guaranteed minimum distribution of $250,000 per county, according to information provided by Watauga County. According to county leaders, counties are authorized but not required to allocate a portion of their allotment to municipalities within the county as long as the transfer meets the requirements of the CARES Act and corresponding U.S. Treasury guidance.
Of the $1,164,018 Watauga is planned to receive, county staff recommended that $200,000 should be distributed for essential local government response. The plan recommends that the county keep $100,000 with $38,382 given to the town of Boone, $21,153 to the town of Blowing Rock, $20,290 to the town of Beech Mountain and $20,175 to the town of Seven Devils.
Boone Town Manager John Ward said the town is appreciative that the county has taken into consideration the significant cost of the COVID-19 response on the local municipalities. While the $38,382 will help, Ward said it will not fully offset the town’s expenditure amount to date.
“While it will not cover the full cost, every little bit helps when revenues to pay for expected services have been significantly impacted,” Ward said.
Seven Devils Town Manager Debbie Powers said town officials had not had any official discussions about the potential relief funds from the county, and that it was too early to speculate how the funding will impact Seven Devils.
“The town of Blowing Rock is grateful for any assistance that we receive. We are very thankful!” Town Manager Shane Fox said.
Request for comment from Beech Mountain was not returned as of presstime.
During the May 19 meeting Geouque said he understood that the $1,164,018 wouldn't meet all of the local needs, but that it is a step in the right direction. He also mentioned that many counties in the state opted not to provide any funding to municipalities. Chairman John Welch said Watuaga didn't deem that necessary or fair.
The majority of Watauga’s allotment is to be given to AppHealthCare for public health services, with the agency planned to receive $639,018. Appalachian Regional Healthcare System is suggested to receive $200,000, and Watauga County Schools would receive $125,000.
The commissioners met May 14-15 to discuss the budget, during which County Manager Deron Geouque mentioned that the county is facing the brunt of the financial hit as it manages situations with agencies such as the local health department, Department of Social Services and the public school system. He added that the bulk of the money is proposed to be given to AppHealthCare as they’ve taken on a “huge amount of expenses.”
The county stated that each entity would be required to expend all funds by Oct. 1, and any unspent funds would be reallocated to the other entities included in the county’s plan.
Guidance given to government entities state that funding from the CARES Act can be used to cover costs for necessary expenditures incurred due to COVID-19; that were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27 (the date of enactment of the CARES Act) for the state or government; and that were incurred from March 1 to Dec. 30, 2020.
More information on how the CARES Act funding can be used can be found in the the commissioners’ board packet at tinyurl.com/ybv74veu.