The following information was prepared by the Office of Policy and Management to summarize guidance received from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and should not be considered authoritative.
In April 2020, Connecticut was allocated $1.382 billion by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) established by the CARES Act (Public Law 116-136).
RULES ON USE, ALLOWABLE COSTS & INELIGIBLE COSTS
The CARES Act specifies that the CRF can be used only for:
- Necessary expenditures due to the COVID–19 public health emergency;
- Costs that were not budgeted; and
- Costs incurred between March 1, 2020, and December 30, 2020.
U.S. Department of the Treasury guidance can be found here, which includes definitions of terms listed above and further detail on the information listed below:
Allowable uses of CRF funding:
- Medical expenses
- Public health expenses
- Payroll for public safety, public health, health care, human services, and similar employees substantially devoted to mitigating or responding to COVID-19
- Compliance with public health measures
- Economic support
- Recovery planning
- Assisting individuals with enrolling in government benefit programs
- Any other COVID-19-related expenses reasonably necessary to the function of government that satisfy the CRF’s eligibility criteria
Ineligible uses of CRF funding:
- Government revenue replacement
- Expenses that have been or will be reimbursed under any federal program, or to match expenditures for which a state will receive federal reimbursement, e.g., for the state share of Medicaid.
- Damages covered by insurance
- Payroll or benefits expenses for employees whose work duties are not substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to COVID-19.
- Workforce bonuses other than hazard pay or overtime
CRF expenditures are subject to audit by the Inspector General within the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Documenting that costs were related to eligible uses is essential in managing compliance risk and to minimize the possibility that the costs are deemed ineligible, thereby requiring that the municipality and the state may need to return funds to the federal government. In addition, the state will require evidence of expenditures upon requests for reimbursement and shall require applicants to maintain extensive records.
The generous federal support the state received has been, and will continue to be, essential, to helping Connecticut through this unprecedented global health crisis by offsetting expenses related to the pandemic. The state has been successful in slowing the spread of the virus through social distancing, increasing access to personal protective equipment (PPE), and cutting-edge technological resources. However, as the state phases into re-opening and implements best practices to avoid multiple waves of the virus, this total effort and the steps ahead, will include significant costs that will place demands on the CRF.
Put simply, state and local governments are facing a new, rapidly changing environment in which costs have increased while revenues have decreased. While the state cannot use CRF funding to backfill lost government revenue, it is allowable to use the funding for aiding municipalities with their costs, assistance to nursing homes, testing, PPE, and state agencies’ requirements to confront COVID-19. Additional and increased expenses are being contemplated as the state plans for the steps ahead. The state is continuing to work with all of those affected to address the impact of COVD-19.
Listed below are the approximate CRF allocations, to date, by sector and a brief summary of how the funds will be used.
MUNICIPAL RELIEF – $75 million
The COVID-19 public health crisis has certainly impacted our municipalities, as the towns and cities have faced unexpected and unbudgeted costs to help deal with this unprecedented situation. Many of their budgets were stretched thin well before the pandemic arrived in Connecticut and the conditions have been exacerbated by the enhanced costs and loss in revenue. While the state cannot use the CRF to replace lost government revenue, these dollars can be used - in combination with other programs- to provide the municipalities reimbursement for their COVID-19 related expenses to date.
Beginning in April, the administration sought information from the state’s 169 municipalities regarding their actual and projected expenses expressly related to combatting the public health crisis and established a reimbursement program to assist municipalities. The administration requested information from the municipalities of COVID-19 related expenditures from March 1, 2020 through June 30, 2020. The administration has set aside $75 million of the CRF to aid municipalities throughout this crisis, with nearly $40 million of direct costs being reported to us thus far.
Municipalities must maximize the use of other programs first and should view the CRF as a program of last resort, remembering that federal dollars cannot under any circumstances be claimed twice for the same spending. Among the many options available to municipalities are reimbursement under our Disaster Declaration from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for COVID-19 related expenses, additional funding from the Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief (ESSER) to assist with increased education expenses associated with the pandemic and distance learning, and programs such as the Community Development Block Grant for assistance with enhanced housing and shelter expenses.
The program will be re-evaluated for expense reimbursements beyond June 30, 2020. Municipalities will be able to seek additional information to apply for reimbursement from the CRF here.
NURSING HOMES – $125 million
Nursing homes throughout the country have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 crisis. The residents very typically have a number of risk factors, the living environment makes social distancing and avoiding exposure difficult, and remains challenging to prevent or mitigate the spread of infection. In recognition of these constraints and the extraordinary steps taken by nursing homes and their staff, the state will be administering a series of initiatives that could come at a cost of $125 million to the CRF.
Within these initiatives is a $600 per bed per day grant to COVID Recovery Facilities and Alternate COVID Recovery Facilities, which are exclusively serving people recovering from positive COVID cases. DSS, acting under the direction of OPM, will complete a monthly cost and expense review of each facility receiving these COVID-specific grants, for consideration of expenses that exceed the per diem of $600.
In addition, there are grant payments that approximate a 10% increase for April and 20% for May and June 2020 for nursing homes that are not COVID Recovery Facilities or Alternate COVID Recovery Facilities that can be used for: (a) employee wages, including staff retention incentive payments, overtime, and shift incentive payments; (b) new costs related to screening of visitors for COVID-19, personal protective equipment (PPE), and cleaning and housekeeping supplies; and (c) other COVID-related costs.
Where necessary, the administration will consider hardship grant applications from financially imperiled institutions where resident care is at risk. Those nursing homes approved for hardship assistance will be required to complete cost reporting and will be subject to audit.
TESTING – $250 million
Testing is critical to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and mitigate its threat to public health, particularly for the most at-risk populations. Expanding the scope of testing will be instrumental to a safe and responsible incremental re-opening that will get the economy moving again without risking additional waves of coronavirus.
With a goal of expanding access to testing, the funding provided by the CRF will be leveraged with FEMA Disaster Declaration Funding and direct funding made to the Department of Public Health to support the state’s efforts in identifying additional testing capacity and increasing the use of existing testing platforms statewide. This will include working to develop new technologies, enhancing testing inventory and capacity, discovering who is carrying anti-bodies, and increasing efficiencies in the ordering, purchasing, and delivering of testing supplies.
PPE AND SUPPLIES – $100 million
Due to the highly contagious nature of COVID-19, the use of PPE is necessary for our frontline workers and first responders. PPE includes a broad range of items with a focus on surgical masks, face masks, face shields, gowns, and gloves.
During this crisis, significant quantities of PPE are used daily, as proper safety protocols include the disposal of the PPE when an individual believes they have a positive exposure. By the time of its arrival in Connecticut, and because COVID-19 is a worldwide pandemic, PPE was in scarce supply across the globe forcing country against county, and state against state as everyone scrambled for sources of needed PPE at a time when the country’s Strategic National Stockpile was exhausted.
In particular, individuals who required large quantities of PPE included care providers, other staff of nursing home and assisted living facilities, hospitals medical staff and other direct care providers (e.g., dietary, laundry, and custodial staff), state employees working in congregate settings or with clients within the congregate settings, high-risk first responders, including EMT, fire, police, and military, and state aided non-profits among others.
As of May 31, 2020, the state has completed orders for necessary PPE and will continue with the goal of purchasing needed PPE until a 90-day supply is on hand in the event of a resurgence of COVID-19. PPE costs will be matched by FEMA.
STATE OPERATIONS – $67 million
CRF funding has been utilized to support a variety of direct operational costs incurred by state agencies in response to the public health emergency. Examples of CRF allocations for state operations include:
- Expanded Unemployment Insurance call center capacity in the Department of Labor.
- Deployed and redeployed the Mobile Field Hospital and staffed the Emergency Operations Center with State Active Duty for National Guard and state militia personnel.
- State agency purchases of cleaning and disinfection supplies, PPE, and materials (e.g., plexiglass) to ensure safe physical distancing in areas with public or significant staff contact, such as in motor vehicle branch offices.
- Overtime and staffing costs for certain public health and public safety personnel.
- Information technology costs related to teleworking, including purchase of laptop computers and other devices, increasing virtual private network (VPN) capacity, and network server enhancements.
- Funding to procure housing for certain essential employees of 24/7 agencies to enable physical distancing from those with whom they share living arrangements.
- Resources needed to ensure privacy in a telework environment.
- Addition of temporary attorneys to assist with the backlog of cases while our courts have been closed.
HIGHER EDUCATION – $25 million
CRF funding will be provided to Connecticut State Colleges and Universities to assist with immediate response expenses including PPE and supplies, direct facility costs such as cleaning and sanitizing buildings, housing accommodations for students, and to reimburse the system for medical equipment that was donated to assist with the pandemic response.
CRF will also be provided to the University of Connecticut and to the University of Connecticut Health Center for immediate response expenses related to teleworking, PPE and supplies, medications, laboratory services, and other pandemic-related expenses.
In addition to CRF, all institutions of higher education have received funding through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund authorized under the CARES Act.
HOUSING – $10 million
Acting through the Department of Housing and the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA), the state will be providing relief to assist renters and homeowners in order to prevent eviction and foreclosure actions. Temporary Housing Assistance will be made available to assist both documented and undocumented households in the state to address both late payments caused by income loss and/or greater expenses due to COVID-19 and has negatively impacted a household’s ability to pay their full housing cost over the next few months. In addition, a portion of the Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program administered by CHFA will be reserved to provide assistance to homeowners who are delinquent on their first mortgage and are at risk of foreclosure proceedings due to financial hardship in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.