LaFayette reviews potential uses for SLFRF program funds

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, January 29, 2022

On Thursday, the LaFayette City Council, mayor and several city department heads met for a work session to discuss how the city could use money from State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) program, a part of the American Rescue Plan intended to help governments respond to and recover from the impacts of COVID-19.

City Clerk Davidson said new rules about how to use the funds had been recently sent out and would become effective April 1. He said the City of LaFayette was awarded roughly $671,000 and had already received half of it. He said it will receive the other half a year from when it received the first one, for which he couldn’t remember the date.

The council members had documents that Davidson said were “40-something” pages long to explain the rules. Davidson went over some of the rules.

First, he said SLFRF could be used to replace lost public sector revenue.

“So if you look at the bullet points, that can be up to $10 million,” he said. “It says [you can] use this funding to provide government services up to the amount of revenue that was lost to the pandemic.”

The second way the city could use the funds is to respond to public health and economic impacts of COVID-19. He gave the examples of economic homes to households, small businesses, nonprofits, impacted industries and the public sector.

“You also see it discusses public safety, public health and human services staff, government employment and rehiring public sector staff and effective service delivery,” Davidson said. “… If you had to lay people off and get rid of employees due to COVID-19 because there were things that affected your overall bottom line, then that’s another way you can use the funding.

Davidson said the rules listed potential uses of the funds pertaining to capital expenditures. He said the funds could also cover premium pay for eligible workers performing essential work.

“That means providing additional support to those who have and will bear the greatest health risk because of their service in critical sectors,” he said.

Davidson said the city could use funds to invest in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

“And then basically, after that, it just kind of discusses the actual restricted uses and things that you cannot use the money for,” he said.

The money cannot be used to offset the city’s net tax revenue or balance a pension fund.

“It also says no debt service or replenishing financial reserves,” he said. “That means you can’t use this to actually just put into your reserves fund. You can’t use it to pay any settlements or judgments. So if we have any lawsuits pending or anything where we may have to pay out from the result of the actions of the city, you cannot use it for that.”

Davidson said the funds can’t be used for projects that conflict with the purpose of the American Rescue Plan Act. Basically, they can’t be sued to undermine COVID-19 mitigation practices.

He said the money could be used for various types of infrastructure, including cybersecurity and software. He gave the example of software that allows employees to work remotely. It could also be used for website design; data backup and IT monitoring, maintenance and support. He said cybersecurity will become increasingly important as city services go digital, making it possible for cybercriminals to access more private information.

Davidson said potential uses for the funds had been expanded. Previous rules had mentioned things such as vaccination programs and testing programs.

“Things like that have always been in it,” he said. “But then, flip over to page 15. You’ll see that it talks about medical expenses, but it also talks about behavioral healthcare and preventing and responding to violence. That was something that I don’t remember seeing previously.”

The funds, he said, can be used for things such as community violence intervention programs. If a city experiences increased gun violence due to the pandemic, it can spend the money on law enforcement as well as technology and equipment to enhance law enforcement response.

“Any expenses must be obligated by Dec. 31, 2024, and it has to be expended by Dec. 31, 2026,” Davidson said.

LaFayette Mayor Kenneth Vines argued that the city should obligate the funds sooner than later, as there are a limited number of contractors in the area that other cities might compete for as they receive their own funds.