CARES Act: Bexley ready to determine distribution of funds
With a Nov. 20 deadline approaching for municipalities to report to the federal government how they spent funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, city of Bexley officials have enlisted community members to identify how best to distribute more than $1 million.
Bexley City Council voted 7-0 on Oct. 13 to approve Ordinance 40-20 to appropriate $1,007,745 from the city’s Coronavirus Fund to cover expenses related to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The city plans to use the funds to not only cover costs incurred by city government but will distribute funds to residents and community organizations that have been impacted by the pandemic, said Troy Markham, chair of council’s finance committee, who introduced Ordinance 40-20.
“This is a very exciting opportunity for us to be able to use this money to really help our community, help the citizens in our community who have suffered under this pandemic,” Markham said.
Mayor Ben Kessler said the funds can be used to cover costs the city has incurred during the pandemic, such as purchasing safety equipment and reassigning staff and reducing staff hours to allow for social distancing.
“This allows us to repay expenses we’ve had as a city,” Kessler said. “And then also it helps with aid and relief to households and to businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19."
Kessler said the city has formed a committee consisting of himself, Markham, City Council President Lori Ann Feibel and city Auditor Bill Harvey to decide how to administer the funds.
“(The committee) gives good checks and balances,” Kessler said. “It’s not just one person determining how to disperse funds.”
Kessler said the city also has formed an advisory group to identify residents, businesses and organizations who have been affected financially by the pandemic and could benefit from receiving funds.
Advisory group members include representatives from the Bexley City Schools, the Bexley Area Chamber of Commerce, the Bexley Communication Foundation, the Bexley Education Foundation, Jewish Family Services and the Developmental Assets Resource Network (DARN), a local nonprofit organization that supports families in need.
“We’ve also been working closely with DARN to develop support for families that would be helping with rent, mortgage, utility relief, food for COVID-19-impacted households,” Kessler said. “We’re laying the groundwork to understand what the financial need is there and what sort of programs could be created.”
Kessler said he is studying how other central Ohio municipalities have distributed funds. An exact date to start distributing the money hasn't been determined, but Kessler said it would be “as soon as possible.”
He said the funds could be used to provide rapid COVID-19 testing for businesses and organizations to enable them to reopen or stay open, increase Internet access throughout the city for those working from home and support the Bexley schools’ 1:1 program that provides Chromebooks or iPads to each student to assist with remote learning.
Council member Monique Lampke said she hopes the city will be able to tailor funding to each organization’s needs.
“I’m glad to hear that it’s somewhat fluid, and we can develop what those guidelines are to help our small businesses,” Lampke said. “Here, in Bexley, our businesses are quite unique.”
Kessler said the city is in the process of developing an application for residents, businesses and organization to request CARES Act funds and provide supporting documentation. For more information, visit Bexley.org.