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. A full detailed listing of the components of each of the categories below is included in the Office of Policy and Management Monthly Financial Report to the Comptroller, which can be found at the following link:
PUBLIC LIBRARIES - $2.6 million
Our public libraries, the librarians, and the services they offer are tremendous assets to the residents of the state, especially for our K-12 students as schools reopen. With these federal resources, our local and community libraries can be supported with their health, safety, and technological needs so that students can study, read, and write in a warm and safe place while alleviating some of the burden for our local governments. As the libraries expand their capacity, there is a need to ensure it is done safely and to enhance the odds of success for students under these unique circumstances
The funds will be distributed among 65 libraries across Connecticut based on their size and the number of residents they serve each year, which will allow much of the funding to particularly target those that serve low-income urban and rural communities. The funds are anticipated to be largely used to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning supplies, signage, and furniture.
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.
To date the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) has reimbursed municipalities for all reported claims through June 30, 2020 for a total of approximately $14.5 million from the Municipal Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) Program. Notably the actual incurred expenses through June 30th were significantly lower than municipalities originally estimated. Connecticut’s Municipal CRF Program originally was structured to provide funds on a reimbursement basis after the processing of FEMA claims. Due to the time delays in FEMA claims processing, and to maximize support to our municipalities, OPM will be immediately providing a direct $45.5 million allocation of the Municipal CRF Program funds to support municipalities costs for the period July 1 – December 30, 2020.
Testing has been critical to slow the spread of coronavirus and mitigate its threat to public health, particularly for the most at-risk populations and our educational system. Therefore $15 million of the $75 million Municipal CRF Program allocation has been reserved to expand regional testing opportunities for teachers and staff to mitigate this expense for LEA’s and municipalities and provide increased support for safe operations of our schools.
Municipalities will be able to seek additional information on the Municipal CRF Program here.
NURSING HOMES – $85 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 are expected to cost approximately $85 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.
In late December, additional supports were announced including: $20.8 million in CRF payments for nursing homes. Further, it was also announced that the State of Connecticut will continue covering the costs of COVID-19 testing for staff in the state’s nursing home facilities, managed residential communities, and assisted living services agencies through at least February 14, 2021, or as advised by the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH).
In June, the governor signed an executive order mandating that all staff at these facilities receive weekly testing until there are no new COVID-19 positive test results for 14 days or as advised by DPH. Upon signing the orders, the Lamont administration informed these facilities that the state will cover all of the costs of this testing for anyone who is not covered under Medicare Part B/Medicare Advantage through August 31. DPH will be extending its contracts with its testing partners for that time period, so the long-term care facilities will not have to contract with nor pay for this critical testing.
The state is also extending its commitment to reimburse Managed Residential Communities/Assisted Living Services Agencies up to $150 for any employee where coverage is not available under Medicare Part B/Medicare Advantage at no cost to their employees. This assistance is now extended through February 14, 2021.
The results of this program of mandatory testing have been encouraging as it has proven effective in identifying staff members with confirmed COVID-19. Testing of nursing home residents has allowed for appropriate cohorting of nursing home residents to limit the spread of COVID-19 within nursing homes. Positivity among nursing home residents tested was 14 percent in June and is now around 0.36 percent.
TESTING – $230 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 – $198 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.
- Support for emergency personnel, including state police, to improve communication devices and, where possible, limit contact.
Guidance received from the U.S. Treasury Department allows states to use Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) to cover the costs of public health and public safety staff. While the guidance gives states the flexibility to broadly cover the costs of public health and public safety staff because of the administrative burden associated with specifically connecting staff time to COVID-related work, Connecticut proposes to use a more limited approach to focus on covering salaries and associated fringe benefit costs of:
- Department of Public Health
- Epidemiologists and infectious disease (contact tracing)
- Facility Licensure (all nursing homes)
- Occupational health and environmental safety (sector rules Lori Matthews group)
- Community health and emergency preparedness (supplies, PPE, and FEMA plan, liaison for local health departments)
- IT (data systems)
- Staffing for COVID-specific units in various public health and public safety agencies, including
- Department of Correction
- Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services
- Department of Developmental Services
- Department of Veterans’ Affairs
- Other public health and public safety staff performing COVID-related work.
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 – $40 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.
In addition to the $40 million rental assistance program, another $23.3 million has been provided for mortgage relief to homeowners ($10 million), supports renters who were facing eviction before the pandemic ($5 million), rehouses people exiting homelessness or incarceration ($5.8 million), and supports renters excluded from federal assistance because of their or their loved ones’ immigration status ($2.5 million). Connecticut’s large cities also received $10 million under the CARES Act Emergency Solution Grants program to prevent homelessness and support homeless populations.
EDUCATION RE-OPENING - $164.5 million
In order to facilitate the safe reopening of schools in the Fall and to support the academic success of all students, up to $164.5 million from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) is being allocated to support schools, teachers, and students. Combined with other funding sources, a total of $266.3 million has been committed to Connecticut school districts to support our K-12 schools’ safely reopening this Fall. CRF funds will support bridging the technology gap, providing quality academic supports for all students, and implementing public health best practices to keep students and staff safe.
Specifically, funding is being allocated to support the following:
- Technology funding to support devices and connectivity to bridge the technology divide, including public wi-fi hotspots;
- Additional temporary academic and student support staff ;
- Social, emotional learning content;
- Additional building cleaning personnel and sanitation supplies;
- Full year of PPE supplies; and
- Transportation funding to support 3 months of bus monitors to ensure compliance with mask and social distancing rules and additional bus routes for densely populated bus routes.
NON-PROFIT PROVIDERS - $125 million
CRF funding has been approved to assist our non-profit providers with the significant demands that have been placed on them as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. This financial assistance is provided to support additional staff costs related to the pandemic, the purchase and distribution of PPE, assistance with testing, as well as funding to meet other challenges of COVID-19.
In general, providers of residential services received an increase of approximately 20% for three months to reflect significantly increased costs of providing 24/7 services. These organizations provide residential services to individuals with behavioral health needs and intellectual disabilities and continued to pay staff not able to work due to quarantine or illness while paying overtime, shift incentives, or hiring temporary workers for coverage and safety of their clients. In addition, residential providers incurred non-personnel costs for grouping and isolating clients, buying personal protective equipment and additional cleaning supplies and services.
Other community providers received increases of approximately 10% for three months. These community-based organizations provide comprehensive outpatient and other supports for the state’s most vulnerable residents and incurred costs including staff incentive payments, purchase of telehealth equipment, personal protective equipment, and additional cleaning and supplies.
Self-directed workers provide home care for elderly persons and persons with disabilities and received increases of approximately 7.5% for three months to reflect hazardous duty.
Further, non-profit providers have been advised they are eligible for CRF funding for their COVID-19 related costs even if they received funding under the federal Paycheck Protection Program, as long as the reimbursement sought was for expenses uncovered by the PPP loan forgiveness.
Funding was granted to a comprehensive range of community non-profit providers contracting with the state agencies:
- Social Services (DSS) – licensed behavioral health outpatient clinics, private psychiatric residential treatment facilities for children, substance abuse residential detox providers, behavioral health/substance use disorder treatment and autism services, home health providers, waiver service and state-funded home care providers, and self-directed workers, as well as support for domestic violence shelter decompression, and emergency feeding programs.
- Developmental Services (DDS) – self-directed workers, residential programs, and in-home and day supports.
- Housing (DOH) – homeless shelter decompression, case management, hotel oversight through seasonal shelter, coordinated access network and statewide shelter support.
- Children and Families (DCF) – residential programs, group homes, other congregate care, and supplemental aid to foster parents for the extraordinary costs associated with caring for more than 3,600 children in state care during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
- Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) – residential programs, substance abuse detox, substance abuse residential treatment, young adult services, and community-based services.
- Early Childhood (OEC) -- Priority school readiness.
ARTS COMMUNITY - $9 million
Connecticut’s arts community is essential to our state’s high quality of life and supports thousands of jobs. The ongoing, global COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our state’s nonprofit arts organizations, as they are struggling while having their doors closed. This program will provide some support so that these groups can continue providing the services in our state that so many depend on now, and into the future. As a result, a grant program has been established to help offset the expenses associated with COVID-19 and the lost revenue.
Qualifying organizations will receive a base grant of $5,000. For organizations that have raised funds between March 10 and November 1, 2020, the program will offer a supplemental match of 50 percent of contributed income during that period. The maximum award for any organization is $750,000.
Arts organizations eligible for funding include:
- Performing Arts Centers: Multi-purpose facilities for arts programming, including theaters that present live performances and/or live classes;
- Performing Groups: Groups of artists who perform works of art (e.g., an orchestra, theater, or dance group). To qualify, the organization must either own the venue in which it performs and/or spend more than 20 percent of its annual operating budget on rental of space used to perform; and
- Schools of the Arts: Organizations that have arts education as its primary educational mission (e.g. community art schools).
The Connecticut Office of the Arts will be accepting applications between October 23 and November 3, and all contracts must be executed by December 30. Additional information on eligibility requirements and the application process can be found on DECD’s website.
Connecticut’s arts and culture sector represents five percent of the state’s economy, generating $9 billion annually and supporting 57,000 jobs. The sector is integral to the tourism industry, with 69 percent of visitors coming to Connecticut for arts and cultural offerings.
Connecticut CARES Small Business Grant Program - $50 million
The state has created the Connecticut CARES Small Business Grant Program to assist small businesses and nonprofits that have been impacted by the economic downturn caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. The program will provide businesses and nonprofits in Connecticut that have fewer than twenty employees or a 2019 payroll of less than $1.5 million with a one-time grant of $5,000. The program will be administered by the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD). The grants can be used for payroll, rent, utilities, inventory, purchase of machinery or equipment, or costs associated with compliance of the ongoing Reopen Connecticut Business Sector Rules.
The governor is directing DECD to commit half of the funds to small businesses and nonprofits that are located in towns and cities designated as distressed municipalities.
DECD estimates it will begin accepting online applications the week of November 9, and all of the funds are anticipated to be disbursed by December 30. Information on eligibility requirements, upcoming webinars, and other aspects of the program will be published on the state’s business portal at business.ct.gov.
The state’s previous program to support businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic, the Connecticut Recovery Bridge Loan program, provided $41.8 million in loans to 2,122 companies across Connecticut. Similar to how that program was administered, DECD will partner with SoFi, whose advanced technology capabilities will help process the grant applications and distribution of funds in a timely fashion. SoFi, which has over one million members, is providing these third-party services pro bono to support Connecticut and this important COVID-19 relief program as part of its larger mission to help people achieve financial independence to realize their ambitions.