Louisiana Municipalities Being Reimbursed for Virus Spending

Virus Outbreak Louisiana
Recipients put food in their vehicle at the Giving Hope Food Pantry during a food giveaway, which was organized by City Councilmember Cindi Nguyen, in New Orleans, Tuesday, July 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

BATON ROUGE, La. — Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration will send millions of dollars to Louisiana’s local government agencies in August to reimburse their coronavirus spending, but that reimbursement money is slated to run out this fall without another influx of federal aid.

State lawmakers earmarked $525 million in direct congressional aid for the COVID-19 outbreak to reimburse municipalities for expenses related to their response, in a program managed by the Edwards administration. More than $127 million has been paid out already, and the second round of multimillion-dollar payments will start going out Aug. 1, said Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne.

Dardenne estimates after a planned third round of reimbursements in October, the dollars to help local governments pay for protective equipment, cleaning supplies, overtime expenses and other virus response needs will dry up unless Congress allocates more money to states.

“I think it’s all going to be spent,” he said.

Federal criteria limits how the state can give the money to sheriffs’ offices, police juries, towns, cities and other local government entities.

The largest payment so far, $38 million, has gone to the city of New Orleans, which was the epicenter of Louisiana’s outbreak when it began. Its reimbursement payment represents about 30% of the money sent to municipalities in the first round.

But as the virus outbreak has widened across Louisiana, the dollars available to reimburse agencies also changes. The maximum reimbursement amount available by parish is recalculated in each of the three phases, based on the parish’s confirmed coronavirus case count and population.

Dardenne said 12 mostly rural north Louisiana parishes haven’t submitted any requests for reimbursement. His office is reaching out to parish officials and to local lawmakers to make sure agencies are aware of the reimbursement aid available to them.

Louisiana received $1.8 billion in direct federal coronavirus aid from Congress. The Edwards administration and lawmakers spent most of it filling gaps in the state budget. Lawmakers earmarked $50 million to finance one-time hazard payments of $250 to front-line workers and $275 million for small business grants. The rest went to the local government reimbursement program.

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