BOCC accepts plan to spend CARES Act money

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The Nassau County Board of County Commissioners approved a series of actions Wednesday that resulted in acceptance of the CARES Act Expenditure Plan submitted by Government Services Group and agreed to apply for the remainder of the $15.4 million available to the county from the national Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act and administered through the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

The board also amended the 2019-20 budget, accepting the initial 25% Florida Division of Emergency Management payment of $3,866,095 to the county from the federal CARES grant, and appropriate $2.2 million of that amount to aid private organizations and small businesses and $1,666,095 to reserves for emergencies or disasters.

Another 2019-20 budget amendment added $372,504 received from the Florida Housing Finance Corporation for individuals in the county who need assistance with mortgage and rental payments.

In addition to accepting GSG’s CARES Act Expenditure Plan, the board agreed to:

-- Have GSG submit the plan to FDEM for provisional approval and request from FDEM the remaining 75% of the total $15.4 million allocation to Nassau County;

-- Pay upfront the $3,848,390 to cover elements in tier two of the plan prior to pre-approval by FDEM; and

-- Extend the GSG contract from July 30-Aug. 15.

The primary reason for the BOCC approval of the upfront funding of the second-tier projects was that a significant portion of that second 25% of funding ($2,306,300) is allocated to “facilities-operations improvements,” which includes new generators for the county’s detention facility. The present generator only covers part of the facility, which requires moving inmates from the facility in cases of power loss. The new generators need to be funded now and then the county will seek reimbursement from FDEM.

GSG Managing Director David Jahosky said the new equipment needs to be ordered now in order to have it delivered by mid-December. The county would risk losing part of the $15.4 million total if the work of the plan is not completed by Dec. 31. Of the $15.4 million available to the county, $3,858,822 in tier one of the plan is already in the bank. The remaining 75% is pending FDEM approval.

Jahosky told the board that GSG met with BOCC members and county department directors, with constitutional officers and elected officials, municipal governments and with civic leaders to get input on their funding requests. The requested allocations exceeded potential funding to the county. “We went back and removed some items we did not believe would meet the FDEM guidelines,”
he said.

Jahosky broke down the four categories of expenditure spending into four categories: economic support and recovery, public safety and public health services, social services and residential needs and a reserve for unmet needs. Economic support and recovery and public safety and public health services as well as social services and resident needs continue over all four tiers of the plan. The BOCC is only directly involved in three of the four tiers.

Jahonsky explained the four tiers this way:

-- Tier 1 totaling $3,858,822: Small business recovery assistance of $2.42 million plus Public Safety/Health services and Social Services and Resident Needs of about $1.4 million;

-- Tier 2 totaling $3855,663: Includes COVID-19 recovery, Facilities Operations Improvements, personal protective equipment and re-emergence preparations;

-- Tier 3 totaling $4,553,658: Includes economic support and recovery, public safety/health services and unmet needs ($2,537,820); and

-- Tier 4 totaling $3,196,237: Includes economic support and recovery, public safety/health services and social services and resident needs. Tier 4 expenditures would be non-BOCC allotments.

Jahosky said the purpose of submitting the entire expenditure plan to FDEM now is to request an advance of the other 75% to execute the Nassau CARES Act plan. He said the critical timing of ordering the generators and other items that require 12-16 weeks for delivery are what prompted the need for the Wednesday morning votes.

“We don’t really have the luxury of time,” Jahosky told the board. He added that is why GSG is recommending to fund the generators now. “There are a lot of moving parts to this,” he added. In order to apply for the second $3.8 million, the county has to use all of the first installment, Jahosky said.

Office of Management and Budget Director Megan Diehl said she had identified some potential sources for fronting the funding of the Tier 2 projects. One would be an internal loan from the Enterprise Fund. The other would be by using Capital Reserves, but Diehl advised caution. She believes the detention facility generator fits the use of Capital Reserves.

Chairman Danny Leeper asked Diehl if some expenditures would be eligible for emergency funds, such as from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Some possibly could be available through FEMA,” Diehl responded, but “that is generally only a partial reimbursement.”

District 3 Commissioner Pat Edwards also asked if using Capital Reserves would deplete county resources in case of emergencies such as hurricanes. Diehl responded that the county presently has about $7.5 million in emergency reserve funds. Those are not associated with Capital Reserves.

The board was advised that non-county entities like the city of Fernandina Beach and the towns of Hilliard and Callahan would have to sign grant agreements or sub-recipient agreements with protection for the county from payment liability. Those entities would have to pay the money for their projects up-front and ask for reimbursement from the county. The county would then request reimbursement from FDEM. If FDEM denies the request, the county is not on the hook for the project cost. If approved, FDEM would send the funds to the county and the county would then reimburse the municipal entity.

County Manager and Attorney Mike Mullin, who repeatedly attempted to make sure the commissioners understood every aspect of the presentation, asked Jahosky how long the appeal process is with FDEM if that agency rejects part of the reimbursements. “Usually 30-45 days,” Jahonsky responded. “If there are items on the list they might reject, they could suggest reimbursement through another program such as FEMA.”

Leeper commented that he is hearing in the community of people having trouble paying their rent, utility bills, and mortgages. “Do we have the flexibility to use some of these funds to help these resident needs?” he asked Jahonsky. There presently is about $336,000 available “to help 102 households with mortgage or rent assistance,” Jahosky responded. “We can come back to the Board of Commissioners with a supplement plan to some of those needs.” He said those funds could be moved into tier two funding, “Priorities may change.” The dollar amount of tier two would then go up.

Mullin also asked Jahosky when the commissioners have to make a decision about funding tier three. Jahonsky responded that he expects they will have an answer on the plan from FDEM by the end of August. At that point, GSG could come back to the BOCC. 

The board agreed to move discussion of the Fiscal Year 2020-21 budget to today at 9 a.m. at the request of staff, and established another special board meeting for Wednesday, Aug. 5, at 9 a.m. 

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the correct spelling for the name of Government Services Group Managing Director David Jahosky.