City gets $113.6 million share of CARES Act federal funding

By , Daily Memphian Updated: April 28, 2020 6:13 PM CT | Published: April 28, 2020 6:05 PM CT

The city of Memphis expects to get $113.6 million in federal funding from the CARES Act for COVID-19 relief, and $10 million will be used for what are being called “business interruption grants” as well as supplementing assistance funds for missed utility and rent payments and for food bank programs.

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City chief financial officer Shirley Ford told council members the specific number Tuesday, April 28, during a council executive session. The administration is preparing a resolution for the council to formally accept the federal funding for the city probably at the May 5 council session.

Other than the $10 million, the rest of the money would be for a broad range of uses still being considered.

During a Tuesday morning press conference, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen said the city is still seeking federal funding in a coming stimulus supplement that the city would be allowed to use to make up for a loss in city revenues.

The CARES Act does not include such funding.

Face mask resolution, COVID-19 council fund and Tillman Cove on council agenda

Previous versions of the proposal for the next stimulus package would have required the city to use that new round of funding for expenses directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic and not a loss in revenues. Cohen said the terms of the bill are in flux. And after the press conference, Cohen’s office said Congress’s expected return to Washington to consider that matter has been delayed from next week.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has estimated the city will lose $23 million in revenues in the current fiscal year and another $80 million in the new fiscal year that starts July 1.

The Memphis City Council approved the $10 million fund at a special meeting Tuesday after talking with city chief operating officer Doug McGowen about the use of half of the amount for the business stabilization program.

McGowen said the administration is modeling it on a similar program in Chattanooga that in normal times is used to help businesses impacted by things like street closings and similar unplanned circumstances.

Council members had been considering a fund of their own proposed by council member Martavius Jones with money from city reserves. Council member Edmund Ford Sr. suggested the CARES Act funding and increasing Jones’ $6 million fund to $10 million.

The council also approved Tuesday by a unanimous 13-0 vote a resolution encouraging business owners to require employees to wear face masks or a face covering “when available,” with business owners providing the coverings.

The resolution began as an effort by council member Jeff Warren, a physician, to follow Birmingham, Alabama’s, lead and pass an ordinance requiring all within the city to wear such coverings during the pandemic.

Council member Michalyn Easter-Thomas suggested trying the resolution first to see what kind of response it gets from the public.

Easter-Thomas said she has been “astounded” by the number of Memphians not wearing any such covering.

And she cited a weekend jump in new cases that is partially a result of more testing for the virus.

“It also shows us that a lot of Memphians are being impacted unknowingly until they have access to these tests,” she said.

Warren, who is part of the countywide COVID-19 task force, said he’s noticed that the places where he doesn’t see face coverings a lot is businesses.

“We are not getting to where we need to be to safely open up businesses and open up schools,” he said. “Pretty much everybody has a cloth garment they can use to make a facial covering.”

Council member Ford Canale, who also voted for the measure, expressed some concern about “a false sense of security” without emphasizing additional precautions.

The council delayed action Tuesday on a resolution selling the site of the Tillman Cove Apartments in Binghampton to a limited partnership between Elmington Capital and the Binghampton Community Development Corp. for $811,000 to develop a mixed use community.

The council will take up the item at its May 5 meeting.

COVID-19 in Memphis and Shelby County: April


CAREs Act Memphis City Council COVID face coverings

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Bill Dries

Bill Dries

Bill Dries covers city and county government and politics. He is a native Memphian and has been a reporter for more than 40 years.


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