Board of Selectmen Seek CARES Funding From County
By Kristen Arute, Hingham Current Staff, August 11, 2020
In a meeting that ended in record time, the Board of Selectmen voted to authorize Town Moderator Tom Mayo to seek funding from the Plymouth County CARES ("Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act") program. After a two-minute presentation by Mayo, Chair Mary Power asked Selectman Joe Fisher if he had any questions.
"I'm familiar with it," Fisher responded. "I understand that Plymouth County received about $90M of CARES Act funding, and I am encouraging our Town Administrator to make appropriate application for those funds."
When Chair Power called upon him, Selectman Bill Ramsey said that he was familiar with it as well. "I'm happy the Town's moving forward with this," said Ramsey. "Hopefully we can get some much-needed funding to help us out."
"As the Board's liaison to Plymouth County, I am familiar as well," added Power. "I really just see this as a procedural vote that authorizes Tom so that the Town can get those reimbursements." Power then said that she would welcome a motion to that effect. A motion was made by Ramsey, and it passed unanimously. The meeting was subsequently adjourned at around the 3-minute mark.
Several months ago, Plymouth County Commissioners came under fire when they applied for federal funding on behalf of the County and refused to relinquish it to the State like every other county in Massachusetts that had applied for CARES funding had done. Hingham School Committee member Carlos DaSilva, who is currently running for a seat on the Board of the Plymouth County Commissioners, joined Governor Baker's office and others in calling for the funding to be transferred to the State. In a press release posted on his campaign Facebook page, DaSilva said the Commissioners had "taken advantage of the situation."
"Covid-19 relief would be much better administered by Massachusetts state officials," said DaSilva. "Because of (the Plymouth County Commissioners') actions, desperately-needed aid will now be delayed getting to those that need it most.” Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Dan Pallotta indicated that the towns would fare better under the County system than they would under the State system. "Congress believes that the money is better spent locally," he said.
According to the United States Treasury website, a unit of local government with a population of more than 500,000 was considered eligible for receipt of payment through the CARES Act. County governments were among those listed. Any disbursements made to local governments were being deducted from the total amount going to the state that the local body is under.
The Plymouth County Commissioners chose to establish a system of disbursement that requires municipalities to apply for reimbursement after monies have been expended rather than receiving a lump sum in advance. All cities and towns have to complete an online application and an agreement and submit all required certifications along with relevant supporting documentation in order to establish eligibility for funding.
The CARES Act may only be used to cover costs that have been incurred due to COVID-19, and only costs incurred between March 1 and December 30, 2020 are covered. Certain expenses associated with a school system's response to the pandemic, like the creation of temporary facilities to assist with social distancing protocols, may be considered allowable and are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. As of July 15th, all 27 Plymouth County municipalities had made submissions for reimbursement through the Plymouth County CARES program.