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[CARES Act FAQ] What Govs Need to Know About the CARES Act

The coronavirus pandemic turned many day-to-day government operations to crisis response overnight. Whether you were fighting misinformation, shifting key citizen services online, streaming public meetings online, or maintaining smooth operations while working from home, you helped lead the way.

As you move from crisis response to recovery, we realize your hard work isn’t done. CARES Act funding can help you recover from costs associated with the pandemic. However, navigating the CARES Act can be difficult. You need to understand how to access the funding and how to file grant applications, and you need to be able to do it quickly to ensure funding gets to where it’s needed.

We want to make the process as easy as possible, though. We’ve worked with experts at the Grants Office, Ashley Schultz and Christopher Barnes, to answer the most frequently asked questions about the CARES Act below.

Watch Granicus’ and the Grants Office’s on-demand webinar about the CARES Act>>

What Is the CARES Act?

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act) is legislation that was passed by the U.S. Congress on March 27, 2020.

The CARES Act provides $2 trillion in emergency relief funding to those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s meant to keep business owners, governments, and individuals afloat as a result of the unprecedented freeze of the American economy.

Access the full bill here>>

How Are Govs Affected by the CARES Act?

The CARES Act allocated $339.8 billion to state and local governments. Of that, $274 billion are designated to fund specific COVID-19 response efforts. The remainder is designated to community development grants, education programs, and programs that support children and families.

Funding is being distributed directly to states and counties/municipalities/towns with populations over 500,000. Smaller populations must get their funding from the state. Each state is dispersing funds as they see fit, so how and when governments with smaller populations receive funding may vary across the U.S.

What Expenses Are Eligible for CARES Act Funding?

CARES Act funding is available for necessary, one-time expenses that were previously unbudgeted but incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Widespread social distancing and work-from-home requirements have increased demand for direct citizen communication and the availability of online processes. Many governments have found a solution through technology. Computer software and SaaS are eligible expenses for CARES Act funding.

Can My Agency Use CARES Act Funding for Software Purchases?

Yes. U.S. governments are experiencing major losses in revenue but no reductions in the demand for services. Software may be a necessary expense to:

  • Expand communication platforms to share critical public health and reopening information directly with citizens via text or email. See how govDelivery can help>>
  • Launch and/or expand websites for citizens seeking information like number of local coronavirus cases, updated public health recommendations, school closures, business closures, unemployment assistance, and more. See how govAccess can help>>
  • Reduce in-office staff and ease access to critical services like social services, permitting and licensing, driver’s license renewals, tax collection, and more — to keep your community running and your residents and employees safe. See how govService can help>>
  • Continue government operations while virtual, like live-streaming city council meetings all while ensuring you include the public despite social distancing requirements. See how govMeetings can help>>

How Long Will CARES Act Funding Be Available?

The CARES Act covers expenses incurred March 1, 2020 through December 30, 2020. Funding must be used by the end of the year, and it won’t be renewed in subsequent years. However, the CARES Act will cover multi-year contracts if you pay the entire multi-year contract cost in one payment (if the payment is remitted prior to December 30, 2020).

How Does My Agency Access CARES Act Funding?

The federal government distributed CARES Act funding at the state level. Each state will have different processes for distributing funding to counties or municipalities. You will most likely need to submit a proposal for funding approval through an application process or your state may follow another method of direct disbursement.

Start by asking around within your agency. If you work for a town or city, the county level may have received information on CARES Act distribution.

Will the CARES Act Reimburse My Agency for Past Expenses?

If those expenses qualify for the CARES Act, yes.

Are There Other Options for Funding Besides the Coronavirus Relief Fund?

Yes. In addition to the Coronavirus Relief Fund, the federal government has issued these grants related to COVID-19:

Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) Supplement

The CDC allocated $2 billion to states for public health preparedness and response capabilities. Get more information>>

Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) Supplement

FEMA allocated $100 million to states for public health and emergency management activities related to COVID-19 response. Get more information>>

Help America Vote Act (HAVA) Election Security Supplement

HAVA allocated $400 million to states to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19 for the 2020 federal election cycle. Get more information>>

Additional Grant Funding

There are annual grants that may help you as you overcome budget cuts resulting from COVID-19. Some examples of these grant options are the State Homeland Security Program and SNAP Process and Technology Improvement Grants (PTIG). Consider seeking grant funding as part of an ongoing strategy in your department.

What Makes a Winning CARES Act Proposal?

Rather than focusing on the product or software you are acquiring, focus on the outcome. How does the technology allow you to accomplish your organization’s goals?

Make sure you include these key components:

  • Basic Organization Description.
  • Statement of Need.
  • Project Description.
  • Plan for Hardware/Software Deployment.
  • Anticipated Project Benefits.
  • Plan for Future Funding/Sustainability.

Bringing It All Together

Although the CARES Act can provide crucial funding, navigating it can be challenging. Granicus is proud to be working with national grants experts at the Grants Office to make the process easier for governments at all levels.

Seeking a Digital Transformation in Response to COVID-19?

Discover technology that can help you deliver urgent messages to your residents, transform digital service delivery, and bring the public meetings process into a fully remote environment. See it live>>