FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners are set to hold a special called work session to discuss how the county will allocate millions of dollars in federal reimbursements for coronavirus-related spending.
The county is set to receive $12.4 million that can be distributed to businesses, organizations or other potential recipients who have been financially impacted as a direct result of the pandemic.
The federal funds are available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, a $2 trillion economic relief package signed into law March 27.
Forsyth County Chief Financial Officer David Gruen said the county will reimburse itself and taxpayers initially with the funds, leaving more than $8 million for other purposes. The federal dollars can only be used to reimburse expenditures directly incurred because of the coronavirus pandemic, but how those funds are allocated is mostly at the discretion of the local government. He said the program does not provide “real specific guidelines” on how the county can distribute the funds, which spurred commissioners to plan a special called work session for what will likely be a lengthy discussion.
“Personally, I would want to spend time really thinking about who really needs [reimbursement] the most,” Commission Chair Laura Semanson said.
Semanson suggested some of those funds could be used to support health systems in the county. She said due to the “financial health” of those in the area, the county’s public health district does not have the staffing to provide the same level of coronavirus reporting as Gwinnett or Fulton County. The discussion also included possible reimbursement to Georgia Highlands Medical Services which has provided free testing for county residents.
Gruen said private healthcare systems, including Northside Hospital Forsyth, could also be eligible for CARES funds. Commissioner Molly Cooper said she would rather see small businesses in the area receive funding over large corporations.
The June 9 Primary Election and upcoming Aug. 11 Runoff Election has resulted in shifts to polling locations and other election-related costs, which could be repaid with CARES dollars.
In April, commissioners voted to earmark $1 million for hazard pay for county employees working at an elevated risk of exposure to COVID-19, including public safety personnel. Gruen said around $872,000 of those dollars had been spent so far, and the CARES funding could reimburse the county for those funds.
County Manager Eric Johnson said Forsyth could consider taking Cobb County’s approach and task its chamber of commerce to identify small, local businesses to benefit that have been hit financially by the pandemic. Businesses do not have to be a member of the Cobb Chamber to receive funds.