The U.S. Treasury is providing about $2.2 billion in pandemic relief funding directly to Tennessee counties and cities.
But with this funding, there are a lot of federal stipulations, which has created confusion among local government officials — who have been calling and emailing the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury to ask about eligibility.
“Every day we’re hearing from local governments who have questions about this money,” said comptroller spokesperson John Dunn.
In response to these questions, the comptroller has now released four memos regarding the funding, which is intended for all counties and 18 cities within the state.
Essential workers in occupations like healthcare, sanitation and food production could qualify for this premium pay, and city or county mayors may designate other essential workers in critical sectors within the guidelines.
But the latest memo stresses that only essential workers who reported to work in-person, interacted with other people or physically handled items touched by others during the pandemic are eligible.
The limits for premium pay are up to $13 per hour above normal compensation or a maximum of $25,000 per employee. Since this funding is a one-time expense, the comptroller recommends issuing this pay in the form of bonuses.
The comptroller also recommends that local governments wait to finalize their plans for the funds until the U.S. Treasury issues final guidance in September.
“These local governments need to ensure that they’re understanding the guidance,” Dunn said. “Because if they spend money that is out of compliance with those rules, that will be noted in future audit reports and the federal government could seek repayment.”