‚ÄčTreasury Updates Coronavirus Relief Fund Guidance and FAQs
Section: Washington Update




Last week, the U.S. Treasury updated its guidance and Frequently Asked Questions regarding the Coronavirus Relief Fund established by Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The guidance was updated to clarify ongoing questions surrounding the treatment of payroll and benefits of public employees and administrative costs.

The guidance states that Treasury has not developed a precise definition of what “substantially dedicated” means but highlights that a unit of government should maintain documentation of the “substantially dedicated” conclusion with respect to its employees. Treasury further provides that:
 
“…in recognition of the particular importance of public health and public safety workers to state, local and tribal government responses to the public health emergency, Treasury has provided, as an administrative accommodation that a state, local or tribal government may presume that public health and public safety employees meet the substantially dedicated test, unless the chief executive (or equivalent) of the relevant government determines that specific circumstances indicate otherwise.” 

Treasury has updated the guidance to clarify that public safety employees would include police officers (including state police officers), sheriffs and deputy sheriffs, firefighters, emergency medical responders, correctional and detention officers, and those who directly support such employees such as dispatchers and supervisory personnel. Public health employees would include employees involved in providing medical and other health services to patients and supervisory personnel, including medical staff assigned to schools, prisons and other such institutions, and other support services essential for patient care (e.g., laboratory technicians), as well as employees of public health departments directly engaged in matters related to public health and related supervisory personnel.   

The guidance further provides that payroll and benefits of an employee who is substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency may generally be covered in full using payments from the fund, hazard pay specifically may only be covered to the extent it is related to COVID-19.

The guidance also clarifies that recipients may not apply their indirect costs rates to payments received from the fund. Recipients may choose to track time consistently across a department and use payments from the fund to cover the portion of payroll and benefits of employees corresponding to time spent on administrative work necessary due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

A proportionate share of single audit costs may be charged; however, an ongoing audit continuing past December 30, 2020, that relates to fund expenditures incurred during the covered period, must report to the Treasury Office of Inspector General by the quarter ending September 2021 an estimate of the amount of such necessary administrative expenses. 

Also last week Treasury released several more FAQs addressing school re-openings, health infrastructure, recently approved budgets and the applicability of the National Environmental Policy Act.