Cedar City Council allocates $1.4 million in coronavirus relief funding to small business grant program

The Cedar City Council considers uses for CARES Act funding during an action meeting, July 22, 2020 | Photo by Kelsey Cooke, St George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — The Cedar City Council determined how just over $3 million dollars in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security funds will be spent and entered into an interlocal agreement with Iron County to contribute to the CARES Impact Grant Program during an action meeting Wednesday.

During a special working meeting prior to the action meeting on Wednesday, City Manager Paul Bittmenn addressed the council to explain the interlocal agreement for the grant program. 

Bittmenn said the agreement allows the city to contribute CARES Act funds to the Iron County CARES Impact Grant Program and provides a framework for how the city and county would work together to provide grants. 

“Basically what the agreement does is it sets out a framework of how this is going to work, who’s going to do the review of the applications,” Bittmenn said. “It also talks about what kind of process will be used to get funds moved out the door. The county is going to do all that work and then we’ll reimburse them.”

Councilwoman Terri Hartley added that the program would use city funds first and then move to county funds due to restrictions on the funding. CARES Act funding received by Cedar City can only be used in the city, whereas funding received by the county can be used anywhere in the county.

“They can’t commingle the funds, there’s geographic restrictions,” Hartley said. “So ours would go out first to make sure that they wouldn’t expend the county money and end up having city money and a county business or an Enoch business.”

After approving a budget revision to include CARES Act funding in the 2020-21 budget, the council discussed how the $3,018,650 should be spent. 

Cedar City Manager Paul Bittmenn addresses the City Council to suggest ways CARES Act funding can be used, July 15, 2020 | Photo by Kelsey Cooke, St George News / Cedar City News

In a work meeting July 15, Bittmenn proposed city staff’s recommendations for the funding, which included allocations for Cedar City Corporation for frontline public safety payroll and safety and sanitation equipment, the Iron County CARES Impact Grant Program, the Iron County School District, and the Iron County Care and Share. The council also discussed the possibility of allocating funds for the Utah Shakespeare Festival on July 15. 

Council members shared their individual suggestions for how the funding should be used. Councilman Scott Phillips said he felt comfortable with purchasing sanitation and safety equipment, as well as an allocation for the Care and Share due to the difficulties it will likely continue to face. Phillips said he felt the Utah Shakespeare Festival is “caught in the middle” of the grant programs available and suggested allocating funds for the organization, but also felt more funds should be dedicated to the county grant program.

“I felt strongly that the grant program needed a lot more money,” Phillips said. “The majority of the businesses in Iron County are in Cedar City, and if we have strong businesses that are healthy and are moving forward, it’s going to contribute back to the city and the county in taxes and their ability to provide.”

Phillips said the Iron County School District has already received COVID-19 relief funding and felt the city did not need to contribute CARES Act funding to the district. 

Hartley said she largely agreed with Phillips, but felt maintaining funds for frontline public safety responders was important as well in the event the city’s budget comes up short due to more impacts from COVID-19. 

“Where Cedar City is responsible for all the fire for the entire county, I leaned a little heavier with us making sure we maintained enough money,” Hartley said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen this fall. We want to make sure that we ensure we have enough funding for public safety, for fire and our police.”

Councilman Tyler Melling said even considering a shortfall in the budget, he felt businesses ranked higher in priority due to their contribution in taxes. 

“If we have a shortfall, it will be because our businesses are hurting far worse than we are,” Melling said. “I want our businesses to have every resource available to stay open, to continue paying sales tax, to continue paying their employees who go out and pay sales tax. I think that’s absolutely critical.”

Councilman Ron Adams raised some concern about the fact that the city has already contributed RAP Tax funds to the Shakespeare Festival. He was also concerned about not knowing what the Festival’s expenses are without producing plays, in addition to potential public perception of contributing to the grant program. 

“I see the need, but I’m always hearing from the public, ‘Is it our responsibility as a city council to fund private businesses’ — in whatever aspect it is,” Adams said. 

The council ultimately approved the following allocations for CARES Act funding: $100,000 for the Iron County Care and Share; $100,000 for the Utah Shakespeare Festival; $1,409,325 for the city’s COVID-19 related expenses; and $1,409,325 for the Iron County CARES Impact Grant Program. 

The funds will be distributed as they are received by the city, in one-third allotments.

The council also approved entering the interlocal agreement with Iron County in order to participate in contributing funds to the grant program. 

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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