NORTH FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — Cities are waging a fight with Fulton County over its proposed distribution of federal COVID relief money.
At stake is more than $100 million in federal aid to compensate local governments for extra expenses related to the pandemic.
Fulton County received $104 million in federal aid dollars this spring to distribute to 14 of the 15 cities within its borders. The City of Atlanta received its own award directly from the federal government.
The money was part of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act that passed Congress and was signed into law by President Trump in March.
Fulton County has proposed distributing $2.5 million of its award to the 14 cities. That’s a little over 2 percent of the total it received.
On Thursday, Roswell became among the first to formally join a coalition of 14 cities that will share costs to battle Fulton County for a greater share of the pie.
Roswell City Attorney David Davidson said all the cities are joining to press for a more equitable distribution.
He pointed out that, except for a small area along Fulton Industrial Boulevard, all of Fulton County’s population lies within cities. It is the cities, he said, that have born the major brunt of extra expenses in public safety and administrative operations stemming from the health crisis.
“That’s not to say that Fulton County isn’t providing any services, because they are,” he said. “They have the Health Department and other services that they do provide, but the cities have a lot of expenses due to the COVID that were not budgeted for last year.”
Fulton County wasted little time spending the money it received through CARES. In early April, it committed more than $13 million to nonprofits serving the homeless and providing meals to the disadvantaged.
In July, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners set aside $1.5 million to create the Virtual Arts Initiative for individual artists and nonprofit arts organizations adversely affected by the health crisis.
Roswell Councilman Matthew Tyser said he hopes the cities and county can come to an understanding before legal action progresses.
“I’m always troubled when one part of government sues another part of government because we’re basically using up citizen moneys,” Tyser said. “I’m hoping that everyone will come to the table and work through this.”
Other North Fulton cities will consider joining the coalition in the coming weeks.
Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker said he plans to ask the City Council to approve the agreement at their next meeting.
“As you may or may not realize, Fulton is the last county to receive direct funding that has not been able to come to an acceptable agreement with its cities,” he said. “To date, Fulton has only been able to share about 2 percent of the funds it received with its cities. This is completely unacceptable and not in keeping with the guidance provided by the state.”
Milton officials were scheduled to consider the item at their meeting this week.
Alpharetta had a meeting scheduled for this week, but that session has been canceled.