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Lamont announces $75 million to reimburse cities and towns for COVID-19 expenses

Gov. Ned Lamont on Thursday announced that his administration is establishing a program, called the Connecticut Municipal Coronavirus Relief Fund Program, in which the state will reimburse city and town governments for expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program will be administered through the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management, which is setting aside $75 million for it, part of $1.4 billion in Coronavirus Relief Funds the state has gotten from the federal government.

OPM Secretary Melissa McCaw outlined in Lamont's briefing Thursday where $650 million of that has been allocated so far. In addition to the funding for municipalities, it includes $250 million for testing; $125 million to assist nursing homes; $100 million for personal protective equipment; at least $65 million in increased state agency expenses, such as overtime costs and sanitization of buildings; $25 million for higher education; and $10 million for housing supports.

The Lamont administration said in a news release that it asked all 169 municipalities in the state to provide information on their actual and projected expenses for combating the public health crisis between March 1 and June 30, and municipalities reported nearly $40 million in direct costs.

That means $40 million will be available until June 30, and $35 million will be available from July through December.

McCaw explained in a letter sent to municipal leaders Thursday that cities and towns may not use funds to substitute for lost revenue, and funds can only be used for expenses that weren't budgeted as of March 27. The funding can be used for cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment, IT equipment to support distance learning, food programs, hazard pay, and shelter for the homeless so they're not congregated, for example.

The letter lays out the maximum amount each city or town can get through June 30. In southeastern Connecticut, that's:

  • $195,315 to East Lyme
  • $366,440 to Groton
  • $75,000 to Ledyard
  • $38,972 to Lyme
  • $50,675 to Montville
  • $1.16 million to New London
  • $45,324 to North Stonington
  • $998,811 to Norwich
  • $31,000 to Old Lyme
  • $126,431 to Preston
  • $758,199 to Stonington
  • $124,693 to Waterford

The application portal will be open to municipalities within the next several days, Lamont's office said, and chief financial officers can participate in training Monday morning on how to certify expenses and submit their claims.

In a statement in response to the announcement, Connecticut Council of Small Towns Executive Director Betsy Gara applauded the plan for reimbursing municipalities, saying it will take some financial pressure off cities and towns amid uncertainty around property tax revenues.

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities said it is appreciative of the announcement but noted that federal guidelines recommend that 45% of the total $1.4 billion in Coronavirus Relief Funds, which would be $630 million, be spent on municipalities with populations below 500,000.

Lamont updates COVID-19 numbers, focuses on trust

The governor said Thursday afternoon the number of coronavirus deaths in the state has surpassed 4,000; deaths increased by 18 over the previous day, to 4,007. Positive cases increased by 148 to 43,239 and hospitalizations decreased by 33 to 373.

Lamont said of the additional 5,061 tests performed, less than 3% came back positive.

The state reported that New London County has seen 1,042 overall confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday, three more than on Wednesday, and 62 probable cases, up by one. The county had seen 69 deaths associated with the disease, up by two, and 25 deaths that are suspected of being related, the same as the day before. The number of hospitalized patients with the disease was flat, at eight.

As of Thursday, Lawrence + Memorial had five COVID-19 patients. Backus Hospital had two and Westerly Hospital none.

Between recent protests and casinos reopening Monday, Lamont thinks "the next two weeks will be somewhat telling."

The governor was asked about the letter more than 550 restaurants signed asking him to consider opening indoor dining on June 10. Lamont said no to June 10 but said he thinks "we'll be getting there as part of our phase two plan" for reopening, scheduled for June 20.

Lamont expects that guidelines for gyms, also part of phase two, will be released Monday.

The governor spoke throughout his briefing of the importance of trust, both in getting people to trust experts to give the best guidance on the coronavirus front, and in building trust between police and those protesting police brutality following the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

e.moser@theday.com





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