CARES Act money helps St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published September 18, 2020

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — The city, businesses and residents will all benefit from federal money coming into St. Clair Shores in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This has helped us through a very difficult time related to the impacts of COVID and allows us to keep providing a high level of service to the resident during these tough times,” said City Manager Matthew Coppler of grant programs the city has received or applied for.

St. Clair Shores has applied for several relief programs from the CARES Act through the state of Michigan. The First Responder Hazard Pay Premiums Program would reimburse up to $1,000 per person for hazard pay to first responders. Coppler said the city negotiated with unions to provide hazard pay for St. Clair Shores police and fire personnel and has sought reimbursement for $110,000 under the program.

“They listed that as a first-come, first served (but) only $36 million of the $100 million they set aside for that program was actually applied for, so we’re pretty confident we’re going to get that funding,” Coppler said Sept. 15.

St. Clair Shores also applied for the Public Safety and Public Health Payroll Reimbursement Program, which provides reimbursement for payroll and benefit costs during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.

“They budgeted $100 million and they received applications for over $350 million. They are going through that and ... they’re supposed to be notifying us of what was to be received,” Coppler said, explaining that St. Clair Shores applied for reimbursement of about $2.8 million.

A third bucket of money available to the city from the state is the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Michigan withheld the August payment of statutory sales tax to municipalities and, instead, sent them Coronavirus Relief funds. St. Clair Shores received $172,000, compared with the $110,000 it would have received in sales tax funds.

Coppler said although the city received more than it would have from the August statutory sales tax payment, the state “didn’t tell us there were going to be strings attached to it.”

Because the money comes through a grant from the federal government, “we are going to now have to do reporting to the federal government for how we spend $172,000.” Nevertheless, Coppler assured City Council members Sept. 8 that, “we can handle this.”

The money will be accounted for in the current year’s budget.

“There’s $110,000 less in last year’s budget. This year there’s $172,000 we didn’t plan for in this year’s budget,” he explained.

“We do plan for these types of things,” Mayor Kip Walby said. “(Which) allows you to say, it’s not a big deal.”

Coppler said Sept. 15 that the money can be used toward the pay of first responders.

“In the end, it really isn’t harming us in any way, but there are reporting things that we have to do now that we wouldn’t have to do otherwise,” he explained.

St. Clair Shores also received reimbursement of $45,000 for eligible costs related to ambulance and paramedic costs through the CARES Act, which Coppler said was spent on personal protective equipment (PPE). It is also eligible to receive some money from Macomb County’s CARES Act money, up to $561,000 if the projects are approved.

Finally, Coppler said, St. Clair Shores received additional funding, about $246,000, from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the Community Development Block Grant program to help eligible residents pay utility bills and rent.

“We’re making that available through a microgrant program,” Coppler said. “We’re actually working with Macomb County, using their platform, to get those out.”

City Planner Liz Koto explained that approximately $300,000, which includes about another $50,000 left over from CARES Act money that came to the city in the spring, would be available for subsistence payments of rent, mortgage and utilities for those that meet income requirements from HUD. A single resident making $44,000 or less or a family of four earning $62,800 or less annually could qualify for help. Those who may qualify are welcome to email Koto their name, phone number and address at liz@scsmi.net so she can have them on a list when the application program is set up.

“Once it’s ready to go, I can at least contact those people,” she said.

The city also has $470,821 in Community Development Block Grant CARES Act funding for grants to qualified small businesses that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. The money must be used to prevent, prepare for and respond to the pandemic. Qualified businesses have five or fewer employees, including the owner(s). The owner must have an annual income at or below 80% of the Area Median Income based on household size, which is $44,000 or less for a single person or $62,800 or less for a family of four.

Koto encouraged any microenterprise owners to apply, however, even if they are not sure they can prove the lower income for 2020.

“I’d rather capture everybody than miss someone,” she said.

The grants are being administered through Macomb County using money the area received in the spring. To apply and for more information and full qualification details, visit https://business.macombgov.org/business-Microenterprise-Assistance-Grant-Program.

Koto said business owners who aren’t sure if they qualify can click on the “Questions” tab on the website, which will automatically get sent to her.

“If they don’t know if (they) qualify ... Some people were saying, I don’t have any paystubs for the last four weeks,” she explained. “Don’t think that you don’t qualify just because you may not have that stuff. We’ll figure out a way to get it.”

Walby commended city employees for working hard to get as much grant money for St. Clair Shores as possible.

“It’s a lot of money. It’s substantial and it’s going to benefit the community,” he said.

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