Grand Forks is asking the state for at least a $474,000 share of federal coronavirus aid.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act set aside billions for state governments, and that money could filter down to city governments like Grand Forks, where staff have been recording COVID-related expenses that could be reimbursed by the North Dakota Emergency Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Finance Director Maureen Storstad outlined them to Grand Forks City Council members on Monday.
They include an $81,000 reimbursement to the Grand Forks Health Department, $56,000 reimbursement for the city’s Public Information Office, and $54,000 for the Grand Forks Fire Department. Some of those expenses, Storstad explained, are laptops for people who had to work remotely, Zoom accounts, signs and so on.
Under normal circumstances, so to speak, the city would be able to ask FEMA to reimburse it for 75% of its coronavirus expenses. The CARES act sent $1.25 billion to North Dakota’s emergency commission, which voted last month to spend $542.2 million of it on public health, telework and so on. That money could cover the remaining 25% on the city’s end.
Grand Forks is also in line for up to $3.37 million worth of federal reimbursements for Cities Area Transit’s day-to-day expenses, $268,000 for the city’s Community Development Block Grant Program and $1 million for the Grand Forks Health Department. Debbie Swanson, who heads the health department, is scheduled to fill in City Council members on department spending that would be eligible for that money, but Storstad told the Herald on Monday those would include new hires, supplies and, down the road, possible vaccinations.
It’s a bright spot in an economic picture that has dimmed recently: city sales tax collections have declined during the pandemic, and City Hall administrators have cut back on a host of day-to-day expenses as they try to surmount a projected $12.76 million drop in revenue.