Fort Worth has accepted over $158,000,000 in federal payments as part of the CARES Act. The city has allocated $50 million for now and will continue to allocate the remaining funds as the year progresses.
Title V of the CARES Act created the Coronavirus Relief Fund to aid state and local governments with unanticipated costs associated with the coronavirus crisis. Monies apply to expenditures starting March 1 and extending until December 30, 2020.
Expenditures must be related to COVID-19 and cannot be used directly for lost revenue or for already budgeted expenditures, Reggie Zeno, the chief financial officer of Fort Worth, explained.
Examples of how Fort Worth plans to use the grant money include paying overtime to city employees, funding emergency operations, covering salaries to employees in coronavirus-related roles, purchasing personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, and distributing funds for community support.
“Expenses will be reviewed thoroughly to ensure the rules are interpreted properly before being charged against the grant,” Zeno told Fort Worth’s city council at Wednesday’s emergency meeting.
“The Inspector General of the Department of the Treasury determines whether Coronavirus Relief Fund payments are used for eligible purposes. Fund payments that are deemed for ineligible purposes are treated as a debt owed by the implementing government to Treasury,” the Congressional Research Service report explains.
Two programs will be implemented as community support for some adversely impacted by the coronavirus crisis: housing relief and small business assistance.
Victor Turner, neighborhood services director, said the city plans to create a program to assist Fort Worth residents who may struggle to pay for rent or mortgage, utilities, and other household expenses like groceries or medicine.
To qualify, a Fort Worth resident must be at or below 120 percent of the city’s median income of $54,000 and must provide proof of hardship created by the coronavirus crisis.
Turner anticipates applications for the program will be accepted starting May 6 and fund distribution will commence May 13. Currently, $7.2 million is allocated to this use.
Another $8 million is allocated for emergency housing assistance in Fort Worth through other federally-funded programs, Turner said.
Small business assistance will come in the form of loan and grant programs.
The grant program will start with $2.5 million available to small businesses who can’t sustain additional debt, Robert Sturns, economic development director told the council.
Businesses can qualify for up to $10,000 in grant funds after showing the coronavirus-related hardship they have suffered. Microenterprise businesses (with five for fewer employees) or businesses with up to 50 employees who retain their low-to-middle income employees may qualify.
The loan program will make $12.5 million in zero-interest, forgivable loans available to local businesses with fewer than 500 employees. The loans are available to sole proprietorships, independent contractors, and those who are self-employed. Each business can qualify for up to $100,000 in loans.
Businesses may apply for either the grant or loan program, but not both. The city plans to start these programs on or before May 15.
Minority-owned and women-owned businesses will be prioritized to receive at least half of the grant and loan funding.
For both small business support programs, the city is looking to partner with local financial institutions that can implement the program quickly and evaluate applicants based on given criteria.
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Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.