MOUNT VERNON — Federal COVID-19 relief funding is on its way to Mount Vernon.
Mayor Jill Boudreau said Wednesday during a City Council meeting that the city has been offered $1,072,200 in CARES Act money to cover costs incurred while responding to the pandemic. The money comes at a time the city is expecting a revenue shortfall of about $5.3 million this year.
The council will review a contract for the funding on June 10, Finance Director Doug Volesky said. Once the contract is signed by the mayor, he said funding should arrive from the state Department of Commerce in about four weeks.
CARES Act funding can only be used to reimburse costs that wouldn’t exist without the pandemic, and can’t be used simply to make up for tax revenue lost due to COVID, he said.
Volesky’s plan for the CARES Act funding would commit about half to reimburse the city’s unemployment liability for furloughed workers, according to a spreadsheet shown during the council meeting.
Another $302,000 would pay for new equipment necessary for working from home, such as laptops and headsets for video conferencing.
Councilmember Richard Brocksmith said it was disconcerting to him to see such a large amount going to equipment.
He said it was hard to justify the closure of the Kiwanis Spray Park and delay in building a new park on 25th Street — proposed by staff as a cost-cutting measure — when the city was spending this much on equipment.
“I’d prioritize people and businesses over equipment,” he said.
Councilmember Melissa Beaton also weighed in for business, saying it’s part of the community and need to be protected.
“I don’t want to forget our small business,” she said.
Further, if these businesses fail, they stop generating tax revenue for the city, Beaton said.
Peter Donovan, the city’s project development manager, said he’s expecting additional federal block grants soon that carry fewer restrictions on spending, and that those would be more easily allocated toward supporting local businesses.