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Oakland County announces $30M to support municipalities

Testing now available for all county residents

By: Sarah Wojcik | C&G Newspapers | Published May 22, 2020

File photo

OAKLAND COUNTY — During a May 19 press conference, Oakland County Executive David Coulter announced plans to allocate $30 million to county cities, villages and townships. There are 62 such municipalities in Oakland County.

Coulter said the county planned to discuss the details of its proposal with the Oakland County Board of Commissioners this week and expected the funds to be approved at the board’s next meeting.

The $30 million, Counter said, would come from the $219 million allocation awarded to Oakland County through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. He said funds would be distributed based on municipalities’ populations and adhere to federal guidelines, and there will be a cap.

Some unanticipated expenses affecting municipalities’ budgets include public safety staff overtime, personal protective equipment, and safety protocols and equipment, Coulter said.

“Once approved, we ask each participant to verify their expenses,” he said. “I wanted to do this quickly, which is why we’re announcing this today, because I know a lot of local communities’ budgets end at the end of June, so these expenses are hitting their budgets now.”

Coulter said he anticipated the first round of distributions to go out by June.

Southfield Mayor Ken Siver said his city’s expenses in response to the pandemic have amounted to much more than $200,000 — the cost of retrofitting Southfield City Hall with glass partitions and a sound system with microphones and speakers to protect staff and residents. The city has also invested in deep cleaning, new door handles, and putting up first responders in hotel rooms.

Southfield has the most cases in the county — almost 15,200 cases and more than 200 deaths. It also runs its own emergency operations center, which Siver said has worked “seamlessly” with the county’s emergency response team.

“We have an aging population — more people above 40 than, I think, below, and our nursing homes and senior buildings have been hit quite hard,” Siver said. “(Our) budget shows over $3 million in cuts, and that’s a guess, quite honestly. We have no idea how our revenues are going to be impacted in the year ahead.”

The county also used $12 million from its federal CARES Act allocation to supplement its Small Business Stabilization Fund.

The fund was initially kickstarted with $3 million — $1.15 million from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Michigan Small Business Relief Program and matching funds from the Board of Commissioners. Approximately $2.3 million supported small businesses, and the county earmarked $700,000 to support the retooling of local manufacturers to produce personal protection equipment.

Coulter said small businesses, or those with 50 employees or fewer, make up 93% of all businesses in Oakland County.

The county, he said, distributed the first round of funds to 800 of the more than 7,700 small businesses that applied and requested more than $80 million in funding. The second round, he said, will benefit 2,763 small businesses that did not receive funding in the first round.

“We will also be launching a new grant program in the summer to continue to support this sector of our economy,” Coulter said. “We believe this is going to be a huge part of how we stabilize our small business in Oakland County.”

The only caveat, he said, to the $30 million proposal to Oakland County cities, villages and townships is a package proposed in Washington dubbed the Heroes Act.

“I think that one is politically unknown right now … and we don’t want to wait,” Coulter said. “But if this is superseded by additional funds from the feds, we’d be happy to have them take that as well.”

He added that the federal requirements on the county mandate that requests for funds extend through the end of the year, so requests for costs incurred must be through Dec. 31, 2020.

Additionally, the county announced on May 20 that it expanded its free drive-thru COVID-19 testing to include all adults ages 18 and over.

All those interested in being tested must make an appointment through the Oakland County Health Division’s Nurse on Call hotline at (800) 848-5533 to schedule a free appointment. Results may take up to three days.

Testing is available in Southfield from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays; in Pontiac from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays; and in Novi from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays.

To date, the Oakland County Health Division has tested 4,844 individuals at its drive-thru sites, 249 of whom have tested positive for COVID-19. The current test positivity rate of 5% is below the ideal expressed by public health experts of 10%.

“We know how important it is for our economy that our residents start working again and our companies and businesses reengage,” Coulter said. “But we also know we’re not in the clear yet. As more people return to work, we need to be vigilant and mindful that the coronavirus is still with us.”

He urged those with underlying health conditions and anyone returning to work to get tested.

For more information, call the Oakland County COVID-19 Help Hotline at (248) 858-1000 or visit oakgov.com/health.