JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — The Johns Creek City Council began discussions Oct. 5 on how to distribute more than $3 million it expects to receive in federal relief aid for the coronavirus.
The city’s share of funding comes after weeks of negotiation with Fulton County, which had been given oversight on local distribution of some $104 million through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — or CARES Act.
Consensus among members of the Johns Creek City Council is to use the city’s $3.5 million allotment to first pay for eligible city expenses, such as salaries for public safety employees dating back to March 1. After hazard pay and COVID-related overtime, officials said the city would have about $3 million remaining to distribute into the community.
Under the CARES Act, relief money can be distributed within the community to individuals or in the form of grants, particularly to businesses who suffered economic and employee loss due to the pandemic.
Council members Erin Elwood and Stephanie Endres said they are concerned about the funds sitting in an account without a plan for distribution.
But Mayor Mike Bodker encouraged members that a long-term plan can be worked out, but getting the money now is important to pay eligible city expenses. He said the city has until Dec. 15 to distribute the money.
“I would like to act while there’s a favorable ruling that says public safety payroll is completely reimbursable because two weeks ago that wasn’t the ruling,” Bodker said.
Assistant City Manager Kimberly Greer told council members that relief money would not arrive for weeks, so they have time to decide a course of action.
A majority on the council agreed that the money should be used to assist Johns Creek businesses and non-profits.
Elwood disagreed. While acknowledging that local businesses are the backbone of the city’s economy, she pointed out that most residents do not work in Johns Creek.
Endres countered that most of the small- to medium-sized businesses in Johns Creek are owned by residents and that many are home-based.
“I think we need to look at the businesses that were impacted in the industries that were shut down the most,” Endres said.
Councilman Lenny Zaprowski said that while he would love to be able to help everybody hurt by the pandemic, he leaned toward businesses because of their impact on the Johns Creek economy. Also, he said, business assistance would be easier to document than sorting through and identifying needs to individual applicants.
“We’ve got to help our businesses, it is so important for our city,” Zaprowski said. “I don’t want our businesses to jump through hoops to get this money, and I don’t want a lot of administration costs eating this up, and I don’t want someone arbitrarily deciding did this business hurt enough.”
Council members Chris Coughlin, Brian Weaver and John Bradberry also said they leaned toward business relief because individuals had already received relief in the form of federal stimulus checks.
The council has moved forward with applying for the public safety reimbursements and plans to formulate a strategy for distributing the remaining funds at its next work session Oct.19. Officials emphasized that they plan to distribute all of the remaining $3 million in this process.