HUNTSVILLE — Scott County is due $4.28 million in federal stimulus funding from the latest legislative package, but County Mayor Jeff Tibbals said Monday he will not authorize any spending until further guidance is received from Washington on how the funds can be spent.
“Right now it’s very, very vague,” Tibbals said of the instructions handed down from the feds. “They’ve got four different points the money can be used for, but it’s very vague.”
From a county government standpoint, Tibbals said, the money isn’t likely to be of much aid to Scott County, although it can be possibly be transferred to other non-government entities, such as utility companies — a point that the mayor said has not been described clearly.
One area where the money could be used directly by county government is for premium-pay bonuses for employees that are considered essential. The problem with that, Tibbals said, is that virtually every county official and employee is considered essential by the state government, while the federal government likely has a very different definition for essential employees.
Another aspect of the vague federal guidance, Tibbals said, indicates that the money can be spent on assistance to households — something the mayor said will “turn us into DHS.”
“Can you imagine?” he asked. “Every household in this county has been impacted. How do you evaluate that?”
Another possibility for spending the money, the mayor said, is on small businesses. But, he added, “Small businesses have had access to payroll protection and other non-repayable notes for over a year now and there’s still billions of dollars in that account that haven’t been used.”
One sticking point that has been raised is the possibility that the state might decide not to reissue the $1.2 million that Scott County received last year, since the greater amount of $4.2 million is going to be awarded to the county. That would be unfortunate, Tibbals said, since the $4.2 million cannot be used for infrastructure projects, while the $1.2 million received last year was used for such projects.
Tibbals said he has written to state Rep. Kelly Keisling and state Sen. Ken Yager and asked them to “please not compare those accounts,” adding that the larger amount of money being distributed this year appears to be aimed more at governmental entities that “didn’t manage very well (during the pandemic) and shut down for months.”
Ultimately, Tibbals said, he hopes to receive better clarification from the federal government on how Scott County can spend its $4.2 million share of the stimulus aid — “hopefully more than just four paragraphs of description.”