COVID-19-related legislation dominated the agenda of the Nov. 17 meeting of the Pierce County Council in the form of three emergency ordinances, including modifying the “Pierce County Restaurant Rally” program to send 100 percent of sales back to restaurants.
That’s in light of the fact restaurants across the state have been forced to shutter indoor dining completely for a second time this year as a result of Gov. Jay Inslee’s order to do so for at least four weeks in response to rising COVID-19 cases in Washington state.
Under Proposal No. 2020-128, approved unanimously by the five council members on hand for the meeting, the nearly 300 local restaurants participating in the program will now be reimbursed for all gross sales, excluding alcohol and third-party orders, for the two-week event that ended Nov. 19. Previously, the reimbursement rate was 50 percent.
“A number of restaurants have ordered supplies, have food on hand and have incurred expenses for in-person dining that this ordinance helps mitigate as they prepare to rollback service, or in some cases, temporarily shut down,” Councilmember Dave Morell said in a press release.
The reimbursement will automatically be given to all participating restaurants that submit receipts as outlined in the program. The increased reimbursement will come from the existing $7.5 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds previously dedicated to the program.
Other action taken on the COVID-19 front included unanimous passage of Proposal No. 2020-125, a new food bank assistance program to provide up to $100,000 to specific county food banks to help cover pandemic-related expenses. Funding for the $1.5 million program comes from the contingency reserve account the council established upon receipt of the nearly $158 million in CARES funds.
Under the program, a dozen food banks are slated to receive up to $100,000 in reimbursement for expenses related to the coronavirus. Small- and medium-size nonprofits will be able to pay for adjustments in operations in responding to COVID-19 restrictions, while also freeing up existing funding sources to pay for providing food and resources to families in Pierce County.
Food banks not identified as one of the 12 can still apply to receive a reimbursement of up to $20,000 for expenses attributable to COVID-19.
As such, the council also unanimously passed Proposal No. 2020-127, essentially a supplemental budget regarding the disbursal of CARES Act funding, with $2 million of the contingency reserve appropriation transferred to the Economic Stabilization and Recovery Program to support small businesses, and another $1.5 million of the contingency reserve transferred to Community Response and Resiliency to support financial relief to food banks.
The county has until Dec. 30 to spend its federal CARES Act monies.