Spokane County asked how it should spend $90 million. Rent, food, small businesses aid were the most common answers
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Spokane County requested the way it ought to spend $90 million. Hire, meals, small companies support had been the commonest solutions

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When the Spokane County Board of Commissioners obtained $90 million in federal support final month to assist reply to COVID-19, it requested the general public for recommendation about the way it ought to finest be spent.

Greater than 1,100 individuals responded and the commonest solutions to the commissioners’ questions had been little one care, meals, rental help and extra assist for small companies.

Commissioners plan to assessment responses to the survey in additional depth subsequent week.

The cash is Spokane’s share from the Coronavirus Help, Reduction, and Financial Safety, or CARES, Act, which additionally included $1,200 in stimulus checks for people and support for companies.

Spokane County, with a inhabitants of greater than 500,000, was the one authorities in Japanese Washington massive sufficient to obtain a direct cost from the federal authorities.

The funds can solely be spent on coronavirus bills and restoration. They can’t be used to stabilize the county’s finances or on tasks that aren’t related to COVID-19.

The commonest matter respondents requested commissioners to handle was rental help, with greater than 160 individuals mentioning it. Individuals requested for rental help for people and companies going through arduous instances.

One respondent requested the county to help households, together with people who find themselves undocumented, that haven’t been capable of afford lease over the previous couple of months.

“Households and small companies can’t afford to depart this pandemic with a mountain of lease debt,” the respondent wrote.

That particular person was one in all many who requested that the smallest companies locally, these with fewer than 10 workers, obtain rental assist as properly. Many additionally requested for mortgage help for companies, landlords and people.

The second-most widespread concern the general public raised was meals safety, with greater than 120 contributors requesting the county improve its assist to meals banks or search for different methods to verify everybody in Spokane County has sufficient to eat whereas out of labor.

Native meals banks have seen double-digit will increase in guests over the previous few months and have hosted giveaways and expanded hours to serve the elevated demand.

The third-most widespread request was little one care help, with individuals asking county commissioners to contemplate spending the cash to assist little one care companies cowl hazard pay for staff and different bills. Many additionally requested commissioners to assist households afford little one care.

Greater than 110 individuals talked about little one care of their response.

One respondent apprehensive that the financial system gained’t be capable of reopen if day cares don’t obtain some help.

“If we don’t save our little one care facilities, there might be an enormous scarcity and other people could have nobody to observe their kids in order that they will return to work,” they wrote.

Nearly 100 individuals requested for extra assist for small enterprise, particularly small companies that had been eligible for a paycheck safety program mortgage however didn’t obtain one. A number of respondents mentioned they, or somebody they knew, had utilized however their utility didn’t obtain a response or the fund ran dry earlier than they may obtain assist.

Round 200 individuals requested the county to spend the $90 million on extra testing, contact tracing, private protecting gear and sanitizers.

County Commissioner Al French mentioned he’s open to spending CARES cash on offering these merchandise for companies, as a result of they could want it to reopen however have had points shopping for it due to the nationwide shortages.

French mentioned the county might use the $90 million to spice up the well being district’s funding to assist present these companies or create a neighborhood PPE stockpile. He mentioned getting companies again on their toes and hiring again their workers remains to be his first precedence and that offering testing is a protected approach to take action.

French mentioned he’ll contemplate the survey responses when making selections, and will use the county’s funds from the CARES Act, or different further funding it obtained from the Washington State Division of Commerce, the Federal Emergency Administration Company or the U.S. Division of Housing and City Improvement, to pay for a few of the solutions.

He mentioned some solutions, akin to rental help, have already obtained funding by way of different applications, however that doesn’t imply a few of the $90 million couldn’t be used for that.

“At this level, I wouldn’t low cost something till the board will get collectively and has that dialog,” French mentioned. “Every part is on the desk.”

County Commissioner Mary Kuney mentioned her largest precedence was funding the well being district. As Spokane strikes to Part 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan, she mentioned it’s nonetheless essential to proceed the fundamentals, akin to elevated sanitation, and fund contact tracing, testing and PPE.

“If we don’t spend the cash appropriately in public well being, we gained’t get to our subsequent phases,” she mentioned.

County Commissioner Josh Kerns, who mentioned his largest priorities had been meals safety and small enterprise restoration, mentioned the county has delayed spending the cash to see if bills may very well be lined by different funding that has extra restrictions.

Commissioners might wait to spend the majority of the $90 million till different sources of support, akin to FEMA and Washington State Division of Commerce grants, are exhausted.

“We’ll use CARES Act cash for what’s left,” he mentioned. “As soon as we burn by way of the CARES Act cash, it’s gone.”

French was criticized by native progressive religion and neighborhood leaders for earlier feedback about wanting to give attention to enterprise restoration. Leaders at Spokane Alliance, together with Bishop Gretchen Rehberg of the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane, urged commissioners to give attention to little one care and different varieties of help.

French mentioned the funding possible gained’t all be spent on enterprise restoration and that he’s attempting to strike a steadiness.

Commissioners will possible determine the right way to spend a few of the cash over the subsequent couple of weeks. All three mentioned they could maintain again some till the autumn, in case there’s one other outbreak.

The U.S. Treasury Division has solely launched just a few necessities for the funds: They should be spent by the top of the yr, can solely be used for COVID-19 bills and associated financial restoration, and may’t be used to make up for any bills accounted for in a neighborhood authorities’s common finances.

Whereas these responding to the survey principally centered on lease, help for enterprise, little one care and testing, some did request assist for the homeless, home violence survivors, extra psychological well being help and drug and alcohol therapy sources. Others additionally requested utility invoice help.

No less than 100 of the survey responses had been requests for objects like planting wildflowers, buying land to protect inexperienced areas or enhancing outside recreation. Coronavirus support cash can’t be used for these kinds of tasks, in keeping with the Treasury Division’s pointers.