Riverside County sets $150M for coronavirus relief via CARES Act

Riverside County supervisors on Tuesday established a $150 million coronavirus relief account in the current fiscal year using federal grant funds intended to assist health care facilities, businesses, and county agencies impacted by the coronavirus emergency.  

In a 5-0 vote, the board accepted a $431 million Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security Act distribution from the U.S. Treasury Department.

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The vote formally set aside $150 million for obligations running to June 30, with an immediate $50 million designation to fund programs that aid businesses impacted by the governor's stay-at-home order and other state and county regulations that forced private sector entities to close to slow the spread of COVID-19.  

The grant is retroactive to March 1 and is intended to be expended by Dec. 31, according to documents posted to the board's agenda.  

Officials said the balance of the grant -- $281 million -- will roll over into the 2020-21 fiscal year, starting July 1.  

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"The county received a direct allocation from the federal government as we are the tenth largest (county) in the nation by population," according to an Executive Office statement. "County leadership continues to work with state and federal partners to interpret eligible uses of this CARES Act funding."  

According to the EO, the County Emergency Operations Center has already identified $40 million in expenses that qualify to be offset using the CARES funding.  

The federal money can be utilized for expansion and maintenance of virus testing, supporting staff at public health clinics, providing assistance to "congregate care" facilities including nursing homes, purchasing personal protective equipment for health care facilities and businesses, funding sanitation operations in county detention centers and securing hotel and motel rooms to shelter homeless individuals, who are considered part of the"vulnerable population" amid the virus crisis.  

No money can be expended to "backfill" the county's budgetary losses stemming from drops in tax revenue directly related to regulations implemented because of the virus.  

Officials said 16 regional hospitals have incurred sizable expenses tied to COVID-19 treatment and response and will be in line for reimbursements drawn from the CARES grant.  

The county Emergency Operations Center will be accepting and assessing inquiries related to relief funding.  

The Executive Office stressed that the CARES money will be held intrust because "federal funding is tied to rigorous oversight, so segregated budgeting and accounting is paramount."