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Cobb cities race to spend pandemic aid before deadline

By Meris Lutz, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

(CNT) City News And Talk #atlanta-ga

Cobb’s six cities have spent nearly $10 million in federal coronavirus aid money on everything from public safety salaries to hand sanitizer as an end-of-year deadline looms.

The $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, was passed in late March, making funds directly available to state, counties and large cities on the condition they are spent before January.

County Finance Director Bill Volckmann expressed confidence the cities could spend all the money allocated to them in time, despite shortages of construction materials, like steel, and protective equipment, like gloves, that are making it difficult to complete some projects before the deadline.

“Everybody’s willing to take an order, but can they get them to us in a timely fashion,” Volckmann said.

The finance director said he expected any unspent or excess funds could be put toward public safety salaries.

“If we can’t put [the money] to good use, we want to send it back, but we want to make sure we take every opportunity to put it to the best use,” he said.

CARES Act allocations were made based on population, with Cobb receiving some $132 million. At the state’s urging, the county passed on about $10 million of that money to local municipalities, with Marietta receiving the most, $3.1 million, and Austell receiving the least, $375,000.

On Monday, representatives from the cities reported on their progress spending the money to the Board of Commissioners.

Several cities reserved the largest chunk of funds, or even all of it, for public safety. Marietta spent the entirety of its $3.1 million on salaries for the fire department. Kennesaw spent $1 million of the $1.7 million it received on public safety salaries, and Austell also spent the largest chunk of its money, about $126,000 of $375,000, on public safety salaries.

Other cities prioritized aid to small businesses that had been hurt by the pandemic. Acworth allocated $588,000 of its $1.1 million to grants for small businesses.

“Most of the checks were somewhere in the range of five to six thousand dollars,” said Acworth City Manager Brian Bulthuis. “They had to prove a loss to us.”

Smyrna, which received $2.9 million, has so far spent $1.9 million on protective equipment, supplies and technology. The city still intends to administer $750,000 in small business grants and any remaining money will go toward public safety salaries.

Powder Springs had budgeted to spend $400,000 on a similar program.