Brookings is eligible for up to $5.5 million as part of the South Dakota COVID Relief Fund, according to the Bureau of Finance and Management website.

But City Manager Paul Briseno warned against getting excited about spending all that money.

“I think a lot of people assume that this money’s just gonna come directly to the city and it’s not quite the case. We really have to show the need and associate it to the COVID cost,” Briseno said.

He pointed out there are numerous conditions placed on how the cities and counties can use the money, and the program is so new, the rules are constantly evolving, sometimes on an almost daily basis.

Volga has been allocated $458,482, but City Administrator Jameson Berreth agreed with Briseno about the confusion and said he hopes things would be clearer in the near future.

Local officials appreciate the governor and federal government allocating money from the CARES Act to the cities, Briseno said.

“We appreciate the governor stepping up and allowing the re-distribution of these funds to municipalities; it’s just we’re working through the details right now to figure out how to attain these dollars,” he said.

Badly needed

“What most people don’t think about is that first stimulus fund package, it helped out businesses, employees, but there was nothing in there for municipalities,” Briseno said. 

Cities and counties lost money just like the businesses did because revenue for both is tied to each other.

“Cities across the state are being greatly impacted by the loss of revenue and sales tax and other revenues. It’s imperative that we have those operations sustained,” he said.

“People depend on municipal operations for quality of life. Therefore, I think it’s great that the governor has allocated a portion of the state funds to municipalities and counties to provide essential services to our citizens,” Briseno said.

Must be COVID related

That $5.5 million is part of a $1.2 billion stimulus package, Briseno said. Gov. Kristi Noem was willing to commit some of that money to the municipalities to help offset COVID-19 costs.

For those thinking the city will be presented a big check, then turn around and distribute it amongst the people, Briseno said that won’t happen. 

The cities have to apply for the money by listing specific expenses they would use it for. They have to demonstrate those expenses are COVID-related to qualify for the funds, Briseno said.

“What’s tough is right now the state has to live by the federal guidelines and there’s additional state guidelines placed on (the funds),” Briseno said. “There’s a lot of restrictions and requirements and obligations that you have to meet if you utilize these funds.”

Not only is the application process complicated, but the program is still evolving, making it difficult to even know what expenses might qualify, Briseno said.

“I’ve talked to some cities across the state that don’t know if they can even apply for any of it based on the restrictions, but I’ll tell you, here in Brookings, we’re gonna try to apply for just about all of it,” he said.

The way it’s worded now, he understands that the money is dedicated to city services, maybe salaries and benefits – but it might include programming or possibly a marketing plan to educate citizens about COVID. He plans to appoint one individual to work with all the city departments to identify all the costs that can be attributed to COVID-19. 

The process actually started earlier this year, noting COVID-related expenses, “so if this day ever came, we could just – by the push of a button – know what those true costs are,” Briseno said.

Now city staff will have to go over that information and see what expenses will meet the parameters set by the state, he said.

Another complication is the deadline.

“The funds do have to be spent by the end of December,” Briseno said. 

Staff not only have to line up the expenses they have actually incurred up to this point, but they also have to envision what expenses they may yet face during the later part of the year, he said.

“That’s not knowing whether nor not we’ll see a resurgence or a wave here in Brookings this fall,” Briseno said, so he’d like some money to tap into for expenses. “We don’t know all those answers, yet, so that’s what we have to work through.”

Who gets the money

A link on the bfm.sd.gov website lists the “Allocation of CRF Dollars to Cities”; another lists “Allocation of CRF Dollars to Counties.” All cities and counties are listed in alphabetical order with populations, along with the money amount.

Counties

Brookings County is listed as having a population of 35,077 and being allocated $2,317,179. Other county allocations are:

• Deuel County, population 4,351 and allocated $287,426.

• Hamlin County, population 6,164 and allocated $407,192.

• Kingsbury County, population 4,939 and allocated $326,269.

• Lake County, population 12,797 and allocated $845,367.

• Moody County, population 6,576 and allocated $434,409.

Cities

Sioux Falls, by far and away the largest town in South Dakota, is listed as having a population of 183,793 and is being allocated $41,551,151. Buffalo Chip is listed as the smallest town with a population of just one and is being allocated $226.

Rapid City is listed as having a population of 77,503 and being allocated $17,521,554.

Aberdeen is listed as having a population of 28,257 and being allocated $6,388,224.

Brookings is listed as having a population of 24,415 and being allocated $5,519,641.

Local cities

Other city allocations are:

• Arlington, population 859 and allocated $194,199.

• Astoria, population 135 and allocated $30,520.

• Aurora, population 834 and allocated $188,547.

• Bruce, population 205 and allocated $46,346.

• Bushnell, population 65 and allocated $14,695.

• Colman, population 579 and allocated $130,898.

• Elkton, population 726 and allocated $164,131.

• Estelline, population 746 and allocated $168,653.

• Flandreau, population 2,316 and allocated $523,592.

• Sinai, population 124 and allocated $28,033.

• Toronto, population 209 and allocated $47,250.

• Volga, population 2,028 and allocated $458,482.

• White, population 489 and allocated $110,551.

Contact Jodelle Greiner at jgreiner@brookingsregister.com.

COURTESY OF: The Brookings Register

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