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Looking back at the first 100 days of COVID-19

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives, both personally and professionally. It is nearly impossible to predict how our world will look two weeks from now, not to mention in six months. Within the ever-changing COVID environment, public sector organizations are required to continuously adapt to those changes and make decisions based on the most up-to-date information available. Below is a brief summary of where we’ve been and what we’ve learned throughout the first 100 days of the pandemic.

In mid-March, the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States prompted officials from various organizations to halt or suspend activities to curb the spread of the disease, including:

  • The NBA season was suspended
  • The NCAA basketball tournaments were canceled
  • Schools and universities suspended onsite learning and athletics for the rest of the academic year
  • Businesses were either required or chose to temporarily close their doors, sending employees home, often without pay

Congress recognized that the economy would need assistance during this unprecedented time and passed legislation, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. To date, the CARES Act has had the most significant impact on funding available to government organizations, as $150 billion was allocated via the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) to states, large local governments, tribes, D.C., and U.S. territories. This funding, which is subject to audit, requires that recipients use their awarded allocations for activities related to their coronavirus response, that costs were not already budgeted for and that they are incurred by the end of the calendar year. In addition, many governments received relief funding payments from the Provider Relief Fund established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to assist with increased costs assumed by medical care providers, such as ambulances, hospitals and nursing homes.

Many states have sub-allocated their CRFs to smaller governmental units to further distribute funds among local entities. In some situations, however, states have further restricted the allowable uses of the relief funds at the local level. For example, local governments may not be allowed to use relief funding to provide economic support to local businesses or individuals. These restrictions may make it more challenging for some local governments to use the entire amounts allocated to them within the required timeframe.

Public sector organizations that will not have issues spending their allocations may need to look for additional funding sources. There are a number of federal programs available to governmental entities that may be considered and pursued. For example, police and fire departments may be able to secure specific program funding from the U.S. Department of Justice or U.S. Department of Homeland Security via an application. Governments may also receive additional funding from pre-existing programs.

Whatever the case, governmental entities should consider the following when accepting relief funding:

  • Can we identify all costs that may be eligible for reimbursement?
  • Do we have adequate support for all costs we plan to request for reimbursement?
  • Have we considered whether any policy changes are needed to address an increase in federal awards?
  • Are we adequately prepared for a compliance audit?
    -Do we have appropriate internal controls over compliance in place?
    -Do we understand all of the regulations that accompany acceptance of federal funding?
  • Does our staff have the necessary time and appropriate knowledge to administer the funding?
  • Have we considered whether projects or equipment purchases will have an impact on future budgets?

The U.S. Department of Treasury provides information on its website that includes overall guidance, funding distribution details and a series of FAQs for state, local and tribal governments.  

In addition, Baker Tilly’s up-to-date COVID-19 Stimulus Guide provides an overview of COVID-19 federal, state and local financial assistance and aid programs, key deadlines and information as programs evolve.

Resource center

Baker Tilly understands state and local governments and how an unplanned event such as the COVID-19 outbreak can affect your organization and community. Visit our Coronavirus Resource Center for state and local governments for additional resources, tools and advice.

For more information on this topic, or to learn how Baker Tilly public sector specialists can help, contact our team.

 

Amanda R. Blomberg
Firm Director, CPA
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