Council creates fund to distribute COVID-19 monies

Seymour officials have created a new fund for the city to receive up to $4 million in federal grant money to pay expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic in the next four years.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 fund is a state requirement for the city to be able to appropriate and use the money.

City council members voted 7-0 last week to establish the fund.

“I think this is more of a formality than anything else,” said Councilman Jerry Hackney, chairman of the finance committee.

Nicholson
Nicholson

The city currently has no expenditures that qualify for the funding, Hackney said, but it doesn’t expire until Dec. 31, 2024.

Clerk-Treasurer Darrin Boas said the fund has to be established by the end of May to receive the first payment.

Boas
BoasLook

“It’s very specific as to what the expenses can be,” he said. “The main thing I see positive about it is it protects our revenue up through 2024.”

The funds can be used to cover costs the city incurs:

  • In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses and nonprofits or to aid impacted industries such as tourism, travel and hospitality.
  • To provide premium pay to eligible city workers performing essential work during the pandemic or provide grants to eligible employers that have workers who perform essential work.
  • In providing government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue due to the pandemic.
  • To make necessary investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.

Both Boas and Mayor Matt Nicholson suggested it would be good to use the money to make improvements to the city’s aging sewer collection system.

Local business owner Solomon Rust asked if some of the money for sewer improvements would possibly go to address problems in the alley that runs between Indianapolis Avenue and Chestnut Street next to his business, Schwätzer’s German Restaurant.

Nicholson said it’s undecided at this point what projects the money will fund.

“Right now, I’m waiting to see where we’re at for 2022 because that’s when we should take our biggest hit from the pandemic as a city when it comes to tax revenue,” Nicholson said. “So these funds are available to help offset losses there.”

He said he also wants to wait to see if the state makes any changes that would allow the funding to be used for other infrastructure projects, such as road work.

In 2020, the city received $640,148 from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economics Security Act for COVID-related expenses. Some of that money was used to purchase life-saving equipment for the Seymour Fire Department along with other needed supplies related to COVID-19.

Boas said even though the state changed its focus and accounting process for the CARES Act funding, more than once the city was able to put the money to good use.

In the beginning, the city used the CARES Act funds to purchase personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, technology to support virtual meetings and for overtime pay.

Later on, Boas was successful in his bid to use nearly $300,000 to replace an automated trash truck that had quit working and couldn’t be repaired. Some funds also were used to retrofit police cars with plastic seating to make it easier to clean and disinfect.

“It has definitely helped us do some things that we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise,” he said.