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Mauldin & Jenkins Governmental Newsletter  |  August 18, 2020
 
Coronavirus Relief Funds - GA OPB Launches New Website with FAQs
by Hope Pendergrass, CPA

Recently, the State of Georgia Office of Planning and Budget (OPB) launched a dedicated website to house available information on Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) monies payable for specified uses to state and local governments. This website can be found at opb.georgia.gov/CARESact.

In addition to providing information on CRF qualifying costs and eligible spending examples, the website also includes a link to the GeorgiaCares Portal, whereby entities can submit expenditure documentation and request reimbursement based on their CRF allotment.

The website also has many helpful related links and documents, including those containing helpful Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Questions and Answers (Q&A). We’ve included a “Top Ten” below of items from these documents we felt are most helpful.

  1. The Guidance says that a cost was not accounted for in the most recently approved budget if the cost is for a substantially different use from any expected use of funds in such a line item, allotment, or allocation. What would qualify as a “substantially different use” for purposes of the Fund eligibility? Costs incurred for a “substantially different use” include, but are not necessarily limited to, costs of personnel and services that were budgeted for in the most recently approved budget but which, due entirely to the COVID-19 public health emergency, have been diverted to substantially different functions. This would include, for example, the costs of redeploying corrections facility staff to enable compliance with COVID-19 public health precautions through work such as enhanced sanitation or enforcing social distancing measures; the costs of redeploying police to support management and enforcement of stay-at-home orders; or the costs of diverting educational support staff or faculty to develop online learning capabilities, such as through providing information technology support that is not part of the staff or faculty’s ordinary responsibilities.
  2. The guidance provides that funding may be used to meet payroll expenses for public safety, public health, health care, human services, and similar employees whose services are substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency. May Fund payments be used to cover such an employee’s entire payroll cost or just the portion of time spent on mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency?  As a matter of administrative convenience, the entire payroll cost of an employee whose time is substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency is eligible, provided that such payroll costs are incurred by December 30, 2020. An employer may also track time spent by employees related to COVID-19 and apply Fund payments on that basis but would need to do so consistently within the relevant agency or department.
  3. Are recipients required to use other federal funds or seek reimbursement under other federal programs before using Fund payments to satisfy eligible expenses? No. Recipients may use Fund payments for any expenses eligible under section 601(d) of the Social Security Act outlined in the Guidance. Fund payments are not required to be used as the source of funding of last resort. However, as noted below, recipients may not use payments from the Fund to cover expenditures for which they will receive reimbursement.
  4. Are there prohibitions on combining a transaction supported with Fund payments with other CARES Act funding or COVID-19 relief Federal funding? Recipients will need to consider the applicable restrictions and limitations of such other sources of funding. In addition, expenses that have been or will be reimbursed under any federal program, such as the reimbursement by the federal government pursuant to the CARES Act of contributions by States to State unemployment funds, are not eligible uses of Fund payments.
  5. May Fund payments be used to assist impacted property owners with the payment of their property taxes?  Fund payments may not be used for government revenue replacement, including the provision of assistance to meet tax obligations.
  6. Do governments have to return unspent funds to Treasury?  Yes. Section 601(f)(2) of the Social Security Act, as added by section 5001(a) of the CARES Act, provides for recoupment by the Department of the Treasury of amounts received from the Fund that have not been used in a manner consistent with section 601(d) of the Social Security Act. If a government has not used funds it has received to cover costs that were incurred by December 30, 2020, as required by the statute, those funds must be returned to the Department of the Treasury.
  7. Laptops & Hotspots – with more remote / teleworking options being utilized, can entities use the funding to purchase laptops & hotspots for employees that need them?  Yes, so long as it is for the purpose of social distancing as a public health initiative and is not replacing existing resources, but enabling teleworking for employees who would not otherwise have had equipment to do so.
  8. Can an entity be reimbursed for full-time pay provided to employees who were sent home after March 1, 2020? The state has not authorized the use of CRF funds for payroll costs associated with administrative leave as those employees were previously budgeted. Additionally, Treasury guidance does not allow for payroll costs for employees performing their same duties but from a different location, i.e. teleworking.
  9. Are Fund payments considered federal financial assistance for purposes of the Single Audit Act?  Yes, Fund payments are considered to be federal financial assistance subject to the Single Audit Act (31 U.S.C. §§ 7501-7507) and the related provisions of the Uniform Guidance, 2 C.F.R. § 200.303 regarding internal controls, §§ 200.330 through 200.332 regarding subrecipient monitoring and management, and subpart F regarding audit requirements.
  10. Are recipients permitted to use payments from the Fund to cover the expenses of an audit conducted under the Single Audit Act?  Yes, such expenses would be eligible expenditures, subject to the limitations set forth in 2 C.F.R. § 200.425.
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