Collaboration, not competition, characterizes COVID-19 relief fund action
Local governments divvy up $4.7 million and Gypsum foregoes its share of the money
When the state of Colorado allocated $4.7 million to Eagle County as its share of funding from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund, the county and the various municipalities within it were tasked with the job of allocating those dollars.
That sounds like a situation primed for competition. Instead, local officials said it was an exercise in collaboration.
“It was a super supportive process that acknowledged the upvalley folks have spent more and will continue to spend more,” said Eagle County Finance Director Jill Klosterman.
That cooperation, in part, reflects the nature of this round of federal funding. Money from the Coronavirus Relief Fund must go toward expenses local governments have already incurred, or expect to incur, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those expenses include items such as the county’s COVID-19 Response and Relief Fund or the town of Vail Community Relief Fund. The federal money can also reimburse salary expenses for employees whose jobs have been substantially dedicated to dealing with the emergency or toward the purchase of personal protective equipment or COVID-19 medical supplies.
But money from the Coronavirus Relive Fund cannot be allocated for anticipated lost revenues related to the pandemic. Vail Finance Director Kathleen Halloran explained that the relief money is designated to cover hard costs associated with COVID-19 impacts.
Halloran agreed the process of divvying up the $4.7 million was a collaborative effort, with representatives from the various governments talking through options and looking at various ways to share the money. Ultimately it was decided that county and municipal representatives would report actual COVID-19 expenses and the allocations would be made accordingly.
“It has been a huge help,” said Halloran.
The allocation list is as follows:
- $2,276,595 — Eagle County
- $1,449,435 — Town of Vail
- $563,837 — Town of Avon
- $222,467 — Town of Basalt
- $99,188 — Town of Eagle
- $44,034 — Town of Red Cliff
- $44,020 — Town of Minturn
But the most interesting figure is the one that doesn’t appear on the list of allocations. The town of Gypsum will not be getting any money from the Coronavirus Relief Fund even though the town estimated it had expended $36,712 in direct COVID-19 costs. Gypsum officials decided to forego making a request for its share of the federal funding.
A good neighbor
“The Town Council just believed that money should go to those who need it the most,” explained Gypsum Town Manager Jeremy Rietmann.
Rietmann said that while Gypsum could identify some direct COVID-19 expenses, the Town Council felt the community could absorb those costs internally. And, he noted, Gypsum councilmembers recognized that by foregoing its allocation, the town could free up dollars for outreach efforts.
“There are just other governments and organizations that are better equipped to get that money to those in need,” Rietmann said.
Rietmann also noted that Gypsum hasn’t really been hit with COVID-19 financial impacts yet. As of May, Gypsum’s sales tax receipts are actually up 3.5% — roughly $85,000 — over 2019 figures.
“We are basically holding steady,” said Rietmann. “It has been surprising, quite honestly, to see how resilient our returns have been.”
Gypsum, like virtually every government and business in the country, is looking to trim costs as it looks ahead to 2021. For example, Rietmann noted that local COVID-19 impacts really hit in mid-March so Gypsum didn’t feel the full sting of reduced traffic at the Eagle County Airport. But if that continues for the winter of 2020-21, it will be a big blow to Gypsum’s budget.
“But it looks like, at least through 2020, we can hold steady,” Rietmann said. And with that positive prognosis in hand, Gypsum decided to do the neighborly thing with its Coronavirus Relief Fund share.
“Sometimes it’s important to extend some common decency to your neighbors at a time when it matters,” Rietmann concluded.