Manassas Park receives $1.5 million in CARES Act funds

City Manager Laszlo Palko addresses the governing body during May 19 meeting

Manassas Park received $1.5 million in CARES Act funding, and in their meeting on Tuesday, May 19, the governing body went over how they could spend that money.

The CARES Act is a federal program that gives money to states and localities to be used on coronavirus relief. When a locality receives these funds, there are strict guidelines on how the money can be used.

City Manager Laszlo Palko presented a plan to the governing body for the funding which involved dedicating portions of the money to eight different programs.

Toward the end of the meeting, the governing body decided to hand the funding over to Palko to distribute throughout the programs, with a focus on reimbursing the city’s Parks & Rec department, whose employees have transitioned from working in a community center to delivering meals for the hungry during the pandemic. 

Another portion of the funds will be used to supporting businesses, and supporting employees.

After approving the plan, the governing body noted that the money would not be enough:

“That million and a half is not going to go very far, I have a feeling,” Mayor Jeanette Rishell said.

Palko plans to have a budget with the funding allocations to the governing body by June 2, with approval on June 16.

Here are the eight programs discussed in order of their priority, according to Palko:

  1. Reimburse the city’s payment to Parks & Rec staff

Parks & Rec have managed programs focusing on food distribution, cleaning public facilities, handling public communications about the coronavirus, and more. 

“They’re pretty much our COVID-19 response team for the city so, you know, we have great justification for reimbursing the city for that COVID-19 activity,” Palko said. 

  1. Support small businesses

This program would dedicate funding to “non-essential” businesses so that they could survive and reopen during the pandemic. 

Businesses that have been closed due to the coronavirus would receive money first, and leftover funding would be dedicated to businesses that lost substantial revenue.

  1. Rent and utility support to people unemployed due to the coronavirus

There was some confusion about how funding could be dedicated to utilities support while ensuring that CARES guidelines were met. Palko elaborated on his suggestion:

“In other jurisdictions I’ve heard they’re basing it on income level. That’s not how I recommend we structure this. The way I recommend we structure this are those who are actually unemployed or furloughed. To me, that’s a much more direct response to COVID-19,” Palko said.

Palko then specified that anyone who lost their job due to the coronavirus would be eligible for this section of funding. 

  1. Employee support

This program would assist employees with childcare support due to the difficulties created by schools and summer program closures due to the coronavirus, as well as with lodging support during quarantine if an employee tests positive for coronavirus. 

This program may also include hazard pay for employees. The definition of hazard pay in this case would be additional pay for performing hazardous duty or work involving physical hardship, in each case that is related to the coronavirus:

“Anyone who is working remote right now would not qualify for that. Anyone coming in and interacting with others … should qualify for that,” Palko said.

  1. Technology enhancements

This program would dedicate money to helping employees telework and provide services to customers so that they would not need to visit public buildings. Such funding may include buying laptops for employees to replace their work desktops.

  1. Additional coronavirus workforce

This program would pay the salaries of extra temporary workers in departments such as Social Services which handle coronavirus programs like rent and utility support.

  1. Personal protective equipment and testing kits

This program would help safely open city services while enabling social distancing by ensuring that employees had appropriate protective equipment, such as masks. The city might also explore creating a voluntary mask distribution program for vulnerable populations.

  1. Cleaning support 

This last program would dedicate funding to disinfecting public areas.

The CARES Act was signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27 and provides more than $2 trillion in relief to U.S. citizens and localities in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

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