County Council authorizes spending last of CARES funding

Despite some misgivings about process by certain members, the Pierce County Council, at its July 7 meeting, released the remaining federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding for distribution to assist with the response to the COVID-19 — coronavirus — pandemic.

With this authorization, the final 40 percent of the nearly $158 million will be appropriated to four previously-established categories: public health emergency response; economic stabilization and recovery programs; community response and resilience; and essential government services.

“Since the start, the Pierce County Council has been actively involved in the financial allocation of these federal CARES Act funds,” Councilmember Dave Morell said in a press release. “We understand the importance this assistance plays in our communities and have prioritized allocations to help people as they respond to the impacts of COVID-19.”

Additionally, more than $23 million remains in a contingency reserve account that requires the council to review proposed expenditures and pass a resolution before releasing the money to be allocated.

At the meeting, several council members indicated they were uncomfortable with funding decisions they thought had too little oversight by the council. Funding priorities have been largely based on recommendations developed by the Recovery Steering Committee co-chaired by council Chair Doug Richardson and County Executive Bruce Dammeier.

Councilmember Derek Young said the council should take more time — at least another week — in finalizing how the money is to be spent.

“This is a substantial amount of money,” he noted.

He was joined by councilmembers Marty Campbell and Pam Roach, both of whom expressed similar concerns.

“I think all of us have ideas we’d like to see expressed in the budget that we’re putting forward, and to just move it along and let other people make the decisions, we’re going to sit back in another month and go, ‘Well, I wish we had one this, I wish we had done that,’” Campbell said. “I think if we just hit pause and came back, there’s more than enough time … So waiting another week is not going to seriously impact our ability to get funding out by the end of the year.”

“I feel the council…has divested itself from its authority by giving it off to some other entity, usually the (county) executive,” Roach said. “We’re not participants. We’re rubber stampers.”

Roach indicated she would vote yes on the CARES fund release authority, Proposal No. R2020-49, noting the situation could have been handled better.

In the end, councilmembers Morell, Jim McCune, Roach and Richardson voted yes, with Campbell and Young voting no.

To-date, the council has authorized $40.2 million for public health and emergency response; $18 million for economic stabilization and recovery programs; $13.65 million for community response and resilience; and $7.32 million for essential government services.

Of the more-than $79 million the council has authorized for assistance, $13.5 million has been spent as of July 1. This breaks down to nearly $8 million for public health emergency response; $4.5 million for economic stabilization and recovery programs; less than $1 million for community response and resilience; and approximately $100,000 for essential government services.


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