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CARES funds aid operational expenses

Prince Edward County’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday, Dec. 8, to approve the sixth round of CARES Act allocations recommended by the county’s CARES Act committee that totaled approximately $1.1 million.

The county has received $3,978,774 from the federal government as the county’s share of the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which was established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020.

After Dec. 8, approximately $1.3 million remained to be allocated.

Before Prince Edward County Deputy Emergency Coordinator Trey Pyle shared details of the round six recommendation, Assistant County Administrator and Emergency Management Coordinator Sarah Elam Puckett shared with the board what the county had recently learned about the CARES Act funding.

“As long as the board has authorized the expenditure prior to Dec. 30 … we can write the checks through Jan. 15,” she said. “So with that said, we are still trying very desperately hard to write all of the checks prior to Dec. 30.”

She said the county has also learned from the state that by Jan. 22, Prince Edward has to return any unspent CARES Act funds.

“But I think given the spreadsheet that you have in front of you and the explanation that Trey is going to provide, you’re going to know that we have a contingency to capture every dollar and that it is our plan that we, the County of Prince Edward, will return no money to the commonwealth of Virginia but that everything has been properly accounted for and that we will have all of the pieces in place for the audit,” she said.

Pyle prefaced his presentation by highlighting a retroactive change in terminology in the rounds of CARES Act allocations.

“With the new guidance that came out this week with Sarah and some of the auditors we talked to, we realized that ‘lost revenue’ is not a term we want to use,” he said. “It’s just something that the auditors said, ‘Stay away from.’ ‘Operational expenses’ is where you’re talking if you’re a nonprofit. So I went back and changed some of the verbiage on here.”

The largest listed allocation on the round six spreadsheet is the more than $505,280 designated for Prince Edward County for the public safety payroll, including overtime and expenses from March to November. Another $55,000 was listed as available if needed under this category for December.

“So basically, what we’re saying is, at the end of this round and at the end of purchases before Dec. 31, those avenues are where we’re going to go to capture all the rest of the money,” Pyle said to the board. “So we’ll spend everything y’all allocate, we’ll go back and get a hard number of saying what it is, and then we’ll just say payroll expenses captured every dime of it and then it’ll be done.”

The Town of Farmville was allocated $150,000 for public safety payroll. Pyle explained how this amount was decided upon.

“Basically what we did was took a percentage of that based on what the sheriff’s office had allocated, or has incurred, the $500,000,” he said. “The citizens of Prince Edward are two-thirds of the citizens where the town is about a third, so we took a 30% chunk out of that, that’s $150,000. That’s where we came up with that number to allocate them.”

Prince Edward County emergency management costs received an allocation of more than $220,881 for March to December.

Pyle said $180,192 is available if needed for the Prince Edward County Department of Social Services (DSS) payroll from March to December for the county match. 

“It’s like 15.2% county match to the state funds for DSS workers,” Pyle said. “DSS are an allowed health care, public safety entity.”

The Prince Edward County fire departments were allocated more than $150,467 to purchase 24 self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBA), four per department, with the exception of Pamplin Volunteer Fire Department. 

This will allow the county’s firefighters from different departments to better help each other in vital ways while working the same fire. When a firefighter from one department goes down and another comes to help, if they have the same SCBAs, one can plug his air into the other’s SCBA, and they can share an air pack until reaching safety.

“This is huge,” Pyle said. “In my lifetime of being on the fire service, 20 years, we have never in Prince Edward County been interchangeable 100%, department to department. This is a start. Now, the departments will have to provide buy in, use some of their CARES money or additional money they have to finish outfitting their station. But they’re getting a $25,000, $26,000 donation, basically, for air packs.”

Prince Edward Volunteer Rescue Squad received $21,170 for emergency response operational expenses, more than $7,708 for overtime in November and December, and $1,210 for COVID leave in November and December.

Meherrin Volunteer Fire and Rescue received $8,262 for emergency response operational expenses, more than $890 for overtime in November and December, and $663 for COVID leave in November and December.

“Meherrin’s is 60% of what their total was,” Pyle said. “Obviously, 40% goes to Lunenburg.”

There was a placeholder on the round six recommendation spreadsheet for hazard duty pay, dependent on the board’s decision to allocate or not allocate it at its Dec. 23 morning meeting. The placeholder amount was $19,377.

For Prince Edward County, $17,000 was allocated for 15 iPads and $1,700 for 15 iPad Air cases.

“This will be new iPads for the board to work remotely, new iPads for county staff that need to work remotely, along with the Board of Equalization,” Pyle said. “So if they’re going to be working remotely, they need to do a Zoom meeting, they can all communicate and be compatible.”

For the Town of Farmville, more than $5,396 was allocated for COVID payroll and expenses.

Two lines were reserved to provide $5,000 each to businesses in the county, to be distributed through the Prince Edward County Industrial Development Authority (IDA).

Board of Supervisors’ audio/visual equipment garnered a $5,000 allocation for a mic, additional laptops and wires and such, Pyle said.

He also noted the $5,000 allocation for “circuit clerk a/v” refers to the camera system allowing the ability to see outside into the circuit court lobby area from inside.

Puckett praised the work of the CARES Act committee, which includes supervisors Pattie Cooper-Jones, Jim Wilck and J. David Emert, Prince Edward IDA members Brad Watson and Joyce Yeatts and Farmville Councilman Donald Hunter.

“They have devoted countless hours, probably both in and out of meetings, trying to consider and deliberate and really put effort into I think one of the hardest jobs we’ve ever had in local government, which was to spend this money in the timeline we were given,” Puckett said.