Small SC cities and towns waiting on millions of dollars in federal relief funds

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COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — Some municipalities in South Carolina with a population less than 50,000 people are waiting on some federal COVID-19 relief funds.

In total, they’re receiving about $430 million from the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund included in the American Rescue Plan signed into law by Congress in March. The Municipal Association of South Carolina (MASC) said about 250 of these municipalities will receive some money.

MASC officials are asking Governor Henry McMaster to request South Carolina’s share of the American Rescue Plan as soon as possible. The relief money set aside for small municipalities is tied to state’s share. When the money is requested, the state then has 30 days to disburse the funds to local governments.

According to guidance from the US Department of Treasury, municipalities can use the money to:

  • Respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel and hospitality.
  • Respond to workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency by providing premium pay to eligible workers that are performing such essential work, or by providing grants to eligible employers that have eligible workers who perform essential work.
  • Provide government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue due to the COVID-19 public health emergency relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year prior to the emergency.
  • Make necessary investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure.

MASC Executive Director Todd Glover said these small cities and governments could use these relief funds sooner rather than later. He told a panel of lawmakers, “As these local governments are receiving this money, they are all competing for these same contracts and the prices go up. The longer our non entitlement units wait, the longer it will take them to complete these projects.”

Glover said 17 larger cities in South Carolina can already request their funds directly from the federal government instead of having to wait.

Lawmakers are set to return to Columbia in September to decide on how the state will be spending the $2.5 billion it’s receiving in federal relief funds. Senator Thomas Alexander (R-District 1) is the chairman of Senate subcommittee working on an allocation plan.

He said they believe it would be best to draw down the money when lawmakers have a better idea of what the state will be doing with it’s funds, “It’s a complicated situation so I personally think time and being cautious and is prudent for us to do. It will serve us well as a state.”

Sen. Alexander said the municipalities and state could work together on projects to maximize the impact of the funds. He said, “I would hope the municipalities all of sizes and counties would look at opportunities to join the funds together so they can go further to help the citizens of South Carolina.”

Other members on the subcommittee expressed concerns surrounding the smaller municipalities. They suggested they might lack the resources and ability to spend their funds properly and want to wait for more guidance.

Glover told lawmakers, “We recognize this money is a once in a generation type money for some of these areas, so we’ll be working with them on how to expend the money correctly.”

To see how much your city or town is expected to get, click or tap here.

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