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Cannon Township says 'No Thanks' to $140,000 in CARES Act funding

WZZM-TV Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek logo WZZM-TV Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek 9/29/2020 Alana Holland
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The federal government has spent billions of dollars to help local governments fight COVID-19. The CARES Act established the Coronavirus Relief Fund to help local municipalities pay or reimburse unforeseen costs incurred related to the public health crisis. 

However, Monday, the Cannon Township board voted to not accept their funding. The township was approved for $140,763 in aid.

"Cannon is very careful with our budget, we plan for exigencies," said Township Supervisor Steve Grimm, "whether tornadoes, fires, recession or depression. And with this one, our budget completely withstood."

Grimm said their budget covered for expenditures related to COVID-19 response this year, except for less than $1,000. 

Expenditures the fund was intended for include items such as computers for government employees to work from home, infrastructure adjustments like plexiglass, and payroll reimbursements for public health and safety workers. 

"We thought the fiscally responsible thing to do was to give it back," said Grimm. "If it’s not legitimate, it seems to me, you don’t do it. Because you’re taking money from those who really need it, businesses, families. Just because there is plenty of it, doesn't mean you abuse it."

Grimm said residents of Cannon Township will not feel an impact from not taking the money. 

"I don’t want to speak for any other municipalities," said Grimm, "but I do think generally in our society, when there is a hint of quote-un-quote 'free money,' people line up."

13 ON YOUR SIDE checked with other municipalities that were allocated similar dollar amounts of aid to Cannon Township. 

Rockford's City Manager Thad Beard said they have not formally determined the amount they will accept yet, but anticipates the majority. He said Rockford has public safety costs which are eligible for the grant requirements, which differs from the Township. He anticipates public safety wages and costs to account for most, if not all, of the available funding. 

Cascade Township similarly accepted the CARES Act funding, and plans to use it for public health and safety payroll reimbursement. 

Walker will be using the majority of their allocation on public safety and public health payroll reimbursements as well. The rest will be used to cover purchases of PPE and additional cleaning supplies and equipment, said Darrel Schmalzel, Walker City Manager. 

The City of East Grand Rapids Interim City Manager, Doug LaFave, brought attention to the differences in services that would require additional funding in different municipalities. He said, "In terms of CARES Act funding, there is a variety of eligible expenses in the act and some of these expenses include, but are not limited to, increased cleaning/sanitization costs for facilities, reimbursement for some Police and Fire payroll (first responders), PPE-gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, retrofits for service desks that include plexi-glass shields, HVAC system adjustments and increased/enhanced filter replacements, sanitizing foggers for City equipment and vehicles, election related expenses for absentee voting and more."

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