While municipalities can access CARES Act funds to reimburse them for unexpected costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic, special taxes districts were not included in the law.
But agencies such as Sun City Fire and Medical Department, the Arizona Fire & Medical Authority, Daisy Mountain Fire District and the Buckeye Valley Fire District also have unexpected virus-related expenses. If they are not reimbursed, it could wreak havoc on their annual budgets, both for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 fiscal years.
“The CARES Act was for cites, towns and schools, special districts were not included, fire and Ambulance were not included in the wording, therefore not included for funding,” Tim Wilmes, SCFMD board member, stated in an email.
However, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Rep. Debbie Lesko, who representing District 8, are working on bills that would make special districts are essential.
“That would then open up more reimbursement for us, hopefully,” Mr. Wilmes stated.
In the meantime, Maricopa County officials agreed to provide assistance.
“Maricopa County recognizes that fire districts throughout the county are likely experiencing unplanned demand and expenses associated with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Clint Hickman, Maricopa County District 4 Supervisor and board chairman, wrote in a July 31 letter to Sun City Fire Chief Ron Deadman.
He added county officials want to ensure fire districts are supported, given their vital role as first responders.
County officials agreed to reimburse fire districts for actual expenses related to the pandemic. These are limited to employee paid leave time for work absences related to COVID-19 and payroll costs associated with staff substantially dedicated to the COVID-19 response.
Mr. Wilmes said SCFMD, along with AFMA, DMFD and BVFD submitted paperwork to the county for reimbursements as outlined in the CARES Act.
“We are just waiting for disbursement,” Mr. Wilmes told the fire board during its Aug. 25 meeting.
SCFMD’s eligible costs for reimbursement from March 1 through June 30 were $243,862.60 while the eligible projected costs from July 1 through Dec. 31 are $365,793.90.
However, reimbursement requests can only be made after costs are incurred, rather than estimated expenditures, according to Mr. Hickman in his letter.
Mr. Wilmes said when reimbursements are received, they will be put back in the budget in the related costs line items, and some will be put back into the supply budget for protective protection equipment.
Congresswoman Lesko’s office did not respond by press time with information on any bills being prepared relating to fire districts and CARES Act fund accessibility.