HANOVER – The Hanover County Board of Supervisors approved a budget amendment last week that adds more than $9 million to the current budget for COVID-related expenses.
The allotment is the second installment of funds provided by the federal CARES Act to assist localities as they recover from financial impacts caused by the pandemic.
“At the end of July, the Commonwealth’s Secretary of Finance notified the county that the state would be releasing the second round of federal Coronavirus relief funds,” said Director of Finance and Management Services Jacob Sumner. “Hanover’s portion of these funds is another $9.4 million.”
How, when and for what those funds can be used for are governed by strict guidelines that also were in place for the first round of relief.
First and foremost, the funds must be used to address COVID-related issues incurred due to the pandemic. The funding also cannot be included in the current budget approved in March, and expenditures must occur between March1 and Dec. 31 of this year.
“The eligibility requirements are the same as the first round of funding, but we now have a much more condensed time frame in which to spend the funds,” Sumner said.
As in the initial round of funding, the lion’s share of the federal money is targeted for education. More than $350,000 is planned to support additional school personnel like temporary crossing guards, custodial hours, bus driver hours and other teacher support.
The funds also will allow the system to purchase five new buses at a cost of $500,000 to allow for adequate social distancing when transporting students.
Additional classroom equipment and supplies will require an additional $1.5 million. The latest round of funding provides $2 million to provide devices for pre K-2 students and support staff.
With the previous round of CARES funding, all Hanover students will have devices in the near future. There are some delays due to the increased demand for laptops and other devices, but school officials hope to complete distribution by year’s end.
The CARES funding also will address technology upgrades at the Pamunkey Regional Jail.
“This will include laptops for jail staff and wireless internet points for the medical staff to conduct inmate health screenings within the unit,” Sumner said.
The sheriff’s office is slated to receive funding for additional patrol car partitions, a new transport van for court services and additional safety equipment.
“The county intends to reimburse itself for public safety personnel costs ($225,000) directly related to COVID-19 pandemic,” Sumner said.
Other projects included in the second round of funding include Fire/EMS equipment and a mobile response unit at a cost of $778,000, and almost $850,000 for community support.
“This round of CARES funding will also allow the county to support its social safety net programs,” Sumner said. “These programs include those in need of housing or rent assistance, utility bill assistance or food insecurity needs. Funds would also be available for additional testing and PPE.”
Public Works and the Registrar’s Office will both receive funding to upgrade services required by the pandemic.
The Pamunkey Regional Library will receive $264,000 for improved safety measures and more than $500,000 will be earmarked to improve customer and employee safety measures like sneeze guards at various county facilities.
The Town of Ashland will receive $684,000, and $1.3 million is reserved for technology upgrades that enhance remote access and promote social distancing. These funds also will be used to extend fiber services to outlying county facilities and upgrading access at county buildings.
Not included in the list of projects for the second round of funding is a small business assistance program contained in the first funding.
County Administrator John Budesky said funds from the first CARES funding has not been exhausted and said he did not see a need to extend the program at this time.
In two rounds of distribution, about $230,000 of the allotted $300,000 has been accessed by local businesses, and another round of applications is pending.
Some supervisors expressed a need for more specificity regarding school personnel funding and just how those funds are expected to be utilized.
“There was going to be a discussion a little bit on the specificity of the school funding for positions, and I wanted to see that information,” Chickahominy supervisor Angela Kelly-Wiecek said.
Sumner said that information was provided to the Finance Committee. The chairman of that committee, Canova Peterson, explained that the Hanover County School Board had not had the opportunity to study those figures and the breakdown.
“We may want to wait for them to bring that information back to us,” Peterson said.
South Anna supervisor Sue Dibble encouraged school board members to consider the allocation as soon as possible.
“I think it’s very important that our school board members review this detailed list and vet this list and approve this list before it comes to us,” Dibble said. “I think that step in the process is very important to protect our students and our public.”
“We have no desire to hold up funding for the schools,” Ashland supervisor Faye Prichard said. “However, in the second round there is some lack of clarity from our end about how that funding should be dispersed. We would very much like the school board to have an opportunity to look at that before we make the final decision about whether we agree or disagree.”
Prichard said she would like to accept the education portion of the money without specifying where the funding would be spent to allow the school board time to study the issue.
Assistant Superintendent for Finance Terry Stone informed board members of the possibility that next month’s school board meeting currently scheduled for Sept, 8 could be moved back a week to allow access to a venue capable of accommodating more people.
The upcoming school board meeting will be the first in person event since the pandemic began in March.
The board of supervisors is next scheduled to meet on Sept. 9, so the consideration requested would not be available at that time unless a special meeting of the school board is held in the interim.
School officials announced the following day that a special school board virtual meeting would take place at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 1, to consider the funding.
The regular September meeting of the school board also has been rescheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 16, in the County Administration Building at the Courthouse Complex in Hanover.