City of Wheeling to Receive Millions In CARES Act Reimbursements
WHEELING — The city of Wheeling received notification this week that its initial applications for relief funds through the CARES Act for municipalities have been approved to the tune of more than $3 million.
The applications for reimbursement for pandemic-related expenses are submitted on a monthly basis, and additional submissions from the city are expected to be made, City Manager Robert Herron indicated on Wednesday.
West Virginia received a total of $1.2 billion in federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act funding for pandemic relief aid to be distributed throughout the state through different programs.
Recently, Gov. Jim Justice announced that a total of $200 million in funding from the state’s overall relief package would be distributed to municipalities in West Virginia.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials and department heads in the city of Wheeling meticulously have documented any and all expenses related to the crisis with the intention of seeking reimbursement for items that qualify.
“From March 13 on, we as a city basically kept track of expenses related to the pandemic,” Herron said. “Our city staff has done a good job in documenting everything.”
So far, the amounts approved for reimbursement through the CARES Act funding comes very close to the amounts submitted in the city’s applications.
The city manager noted that the first application covered the second half of March when the coronavirus pandemic began and the entire month of April. The city of Wheeling was approved for $2,063,658 in reimbursement for this period. For the month of May, the city was approved for around $1,058,707, Herron said.
“We’ve not submitted for June yet,” he noted. “That is being worked on as we speak.”
Herron said the city had requested figures that were slightly more than those approved — particularly for March and April. However, the notification of approval included explanations of why certain items were not reimbursed. For example, the city of Wheeling had already received a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice for pandemic-related expenses in the fire department, and those expenses could not be deemed reimbursable through the municipal CARES Act avenue of funding, as well.
“These funds will be put back into the areas in the budget from which they came,” Herron said, noting that many different expenses qualified for reimbursement.
In addition to additional police and fire department expenses related to the pandemic, various materials such as disinfectant and other COVID-related purchases qualified, as did a number of expenses related to additional telecommunication equipment needed for city operations during the crisis.
“We’d like to acknowledge the governor’s office for their work in providing these funds for municipalities in the state, including the city of Wheeling,” Herron said. “This is a very helpful program for municipalities. This reimbursement program will be extremely helpful to municipalities that have continued providing essential services through this difficult time.”
Herron said as the pandemic continues, pandemic-related expenses continue to be incurred by the city.
“It’s my understanding this program is set up to continue through December,” the city manager said, indicating that monthly applications for reimbursement will likely continue as long as pandemic-related expenses continue to be tallied.
The city suffered significant losses in revenues this spring when the pandemic resulted in the closure of most businesses. Through the crisis, city officials were able to manage finances without implementing layoffs. Wheeling Finance Committee members noted that the fiscal year budget ending in June saw budgeted expenditures for the year come in at around 92 percent, which reflected reduced spending. Overall, the city fell short by only about $400,000 during the fiscal year, with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting the fourth quarter.
The city turned to its Budget Stabilization Fund to balance the budget in light of that shortfall. Wheeling officials tipped their hats to the current and past administrations and city councils that created and maintained the Budget Stabilization Fund or “rainy day fund” for use in times of crisis.
Herron indicated he is hopeful that money the city had shifted away from capital improvements and purchases during the pandemic — as well as money used from the Budget Stabilization Fund — can be replenished moving forward.