Greenville County Council held a special meeting via Zoom video chat on Friday afternoon, June 12, to discuss how to spend $91.4 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds.
Council approved an outline for how to allocate the funds, with more than 82% of the money going to support small businesses.
The meeting marked the first time council met to formally discuss the matter since receiving the funds via wire transfer from the Treasury Department nearly two months earlier. Greenville County was among 171 counties nationwide with a population of more than 500,000 people, which served as the eligibility cutoff for receiving funds. Greenville was the only county in South Carolina to qualify.
The county now has until December 31, 2020 to spend the money; otherwise the money must be returned to the federal government.
That deadline drove the conversation for much of the meeting, with some council-members, including Councilwoman Liz Seman, questioning whether a percentage of the funds should be held back in case the impact of the virus increases in the coming months.
“Based on the current number of virus cases, we haven’t peaked yet, and who knows when that’s going to happen,” said County Administrator Joe Kernel. “So that’s a big challenge, because we have to get this money spent, so we can hold back, but we can only hold back for so long or we lose the money.”
Kernel laid out a tentative plan for how the funds should be allocated, with the majority allocated for small businesses, which make up about 85% of all businesses operating within the county.
Here’s a projected breakdown of how the county aims to spend the money:
Small business relaunch or assistance: $70 million; small businesses that were unable to receive prior assistance from the federal government for COVID-19 relief will be able to apply for funds two weeks earlier than businesses that have already received funds.
Minority small business relaunch or assistance: $5 million; minority small businesses are defined by the county as “small businesses that are at least 51 percent owned by one or more individuals who are both socially and economically disadvantaged.” Minority small businesses can apply for the overall small business fund or the minority small businesses fund, but not both.
County government fund: $1.5 million; this money can only go to cover costs related directly to the virus, including protective equipment, remote work accommodations and other expenses
Municipal government fund: $1 million
Public health/community health: $4 million
Special purpose fire districts: $500,000
Housing and rental assistance through Greenville County Redevelopment Authority: $3.5 million
Independent county agencies: $2 million; these are organizations with which the county holds some interest, including the Phoenix Center and others.
Uncategorized or additional needs: $3.854 million
The CARES Act requires that payments from the COVID-19 relief fund only be used to cover expenses that are “necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency resulting directly from the virus,” according to a statement from the Treasury Department. The funds cannot be used to cover lost tax revenue, and can only be used to cover costs that were incurred during the period that begins on March 1,2020 and ends on December 30, 2020.