Cares Act

Stephenie Slahor, Ph.D.

The federal government’s response to the COVID-19 world public health crisis includes the unprecedented nearly $2 trillion emergency relief package presented in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) – an amount equal to about ten percent of the total US gross domestic product.

While much of the financial relief is targeted to individuals, businesses, unemployment compensation, and measures to restore the thriving economy, $150 billion of the package will apply to state, local and tribal governments in onetime grants and other provisions, with about $1.25 billion allocated to each state. In addition, there is a lending fund of more than $450 billion for loans to businesses, states and cities, with funds through the Small Business Administration to support emergency grants, loans and loan forgiveness.

Fiscal year 2020 Opportunity ID BJA-2020-18553 is the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Program (CESF) which is intended to assist law enforcement in the fight against coronavirus. 

In addition, although the grant aid seems particularly applicable to cities with more than 500,000 residents, there is also a provision for a Disaster Relief Fund for financial support directly related to immediate needs in coping with the COVID-19 problem. About $5 billion relates to Community Development Block Grants; $4.3 billion for federal, state and local public health agencies (through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention); and other funds for public transit.

With police agencies not only maintaining the need to keep a steady hand on the budget, but adding in the need for funds for more assistance during the health crisis, it seems future financial aid to states may be needed to assess and evaluate such needs.

CARES includes $850 million for the Byrne-Justice Assistance Grant Program which allows state and local police agencies and jails to meet local needs. This includes purchases of personal protective equipment and other necessary medical items, and it includes overtime for officers on the front lines. Restrictions, if any, are unclear at press time and it is also unclear whether the grants are available to “sanctuary” jurisdictions. 

With business and activity closures throughout most of the nation, there will certainly be a huge impact on state tax revenues, but that impact might not be fully seen until June or later. States may be using “rainy day funds” to have enough to pay for health departments’ and public agencies’ responses to virus control. Such emergency funds might be reimbursed through the monies to be paid to the states. Plans for tax cuts, exemptions and other financial benefits may be curtailed if the virus costs more than anticipated which seems likely.                       

Implementing CARES will require responsible strategies, solutions and smooth planning for quick, but efficient, action and meeting the challenging of specific expectations or demands of senior administrators of the Act. The pressure to continue seamlessly and responsibly will be demanded by the citizen taxpayers, the President and the Congress. The looming presence of the November election will be yet another way the citizenry will show whether it receives the articulated and actual leadership it expects from its government. The old buzzwords of transparency, comprehensive oversight and risk management will be at the forefront again once the immediacy of coping with the situation is well in hand. 

The General Administrative provisions of CARES state that Justice Information Sharing Technology funds shall remain available until expended to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus, provided that an amount is designated by Congress as being for an emergency requirement. 

For state and local law enforcement assistance, $850 million is to remain available to each state until expended to prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus and to be awarded via the formula allocation in use in 2019 for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program. The awards shall not be subject to restrictions or special conditions which are the same as, or substantially similar to, those imposed on awards which forbid interference with federal law enforcement. 

CARES will provide funding to assist eligible states, local units of government and tribes in preventing, preparing for and responding to the Coronavirus. Allowable projects and purchases include, but are not limited to, overtime; equipment (including law enforcement and medical personal protective equipment, hiring, supplies [e.g., gloves, masks, sanitizers]; training; travel expenses; and addressing the medical needs of inmates in state, local and tribal detention facilities). It is vital to note that BJC-2020-18553 will have an application closing date of May 29, 2020.   

Eligibility is given to states, US territories, the District of Columbia, units of local government, and federally recognized tribal governments eligible for funding under the 2019 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program. Only the state administering agency which applied for FY 2019 JAG funding for a state/territory may apply for the state allocation of CARES CESF funding. At https://tinyurl.com/udycopl is a listing, by state, of each state’s allocation and, upon clicking on a specific state, the amount for each county/parish of the state.                 

The Standard Form-424 application is a cover sheet for submission of pre-applications, applications and related information. The Program Narrative must describe the specific Coronavirus prevention, preparation and/or response efforts which will be addressed with the funding and must include a summary of the types of projects or items which will be funded over the two year grant period. The Budget Narrative should include a full description of all costs, including administrative or indirect costs, if any. 

Application information will be reviewed as to whether it is reasonable, understandable, measurable, achievable, and consistent with the solicitation.

If selected for funding, all award conditions must be fulfilled. It is best to review information on post-award legal requirements and conditions prior to submitting an application for the proposed project. Applicants must register in the Grants Management System (GMS) prior to submitting an application under the solicitation, even if previously registered in the GMS. Select the Apply Online button associated with the solicitation title. All registrations and applications are due by 11:59 pm EDT May 29, 2020. 

While there are no apparent specific prohibitions under the CESF program, individual items costing $500,000 or more should be identified and thoroughly justified by the grantee and receive written prior approval from BJA post-award through the submission and approval of a Grant Adjustment Notice. Costs must be reasonable to receive approval. If the grantee is requesting purchase of an unmanned aerial system, unmanned aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicle, Federal Aviation Administration approval must be obtained as outlined at https://tinyurl.com/y6jthdq3

The BJA expects to make 1873 awards and have a performance duration of two years for any grants. Recipients have the option to request a onetime, up to a 12 month extension, provided the extension is requested via GMS no fewer than 30 days prior to the end of the performance period.

For assistance with any requirements other than technical, contact the NCJRS Response Center at 800-851-3420, E-mail at grants@ncjrs.gov, or Web chat at https://webcontact.ncjrs.gov/ncjchat/chat.jsp  Its hours of operation are 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. EDT, Monday through Friday.

For technical assistance, contact the Grants Management System Support Hotline at 888-549-9901, option 3, or E-mail GMS.HelpDesk@usdoj.gov (which operates 24/7 including holidays).

Consult the OJP Grant Application Resource Guide for further details at ojp.gov.

Parenthetically, while the emphasis has been on funding through CARES and CESF, keep alert to the nonprofit, private foundation sector in your state, region or locality. The downturn caused by COVID-19 sees some foundations expressing community concern about well-being and the providing of help where needed within a specific locale directly affected by the coronavirus. One example is the Inland Empire Community Foundation in Southern California which opened a new fund, “The IE COVID-19 Resilience Fund,” financed by donations and available to nonprofits in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties responding to the health crisis. The funds will go to the front lines combating COVID-19, such as food pantries, health care clinics and homeless providers working directly to assist the most vulnerable populations impacted by the virus. Demands on services (current and pending), operations changes (to raise and distribute funding), and anticipated continuing demand for more support will grow in the coming weeks.

Also, continue to monitor grants.gov for possible new grant opportunities related to coronavirus/COVID-19 prevention and relief funds.

Stephenie Slahor, Ph.D., J.D., is a writer in the fields of law enforcement and security. She can be reached at drss12@msn.com.