The city of Denison is pursuing federal funds aimed at assisting cities in shouldering the expense of the COVID-19 pandemic.


City leaders are considering filing for relief funds under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Emergency Security Act, also known as CARES. Under the Coronavirus Relief Fund, the city could be eligible for up to $1.4 million is assistance funding.


"This funding is very welcome and we are going to seek to get it as quick as we can starting with the city council tonight," City Manager Jud Rex said.


As a part of the CARES Act, $11.24 billion of funding was allocated for the state of Texas. Of that, $5.06 billion was made available for local governments.


The majority of the funds — $3.2 billion has already been allocated for 18 counties and cities with a population over 500,000. The remaining $1.85 billion will be split across the rest of the state.


The $1.4 million that is available to Denison is based on a $55 per capita allocation. Of these funds, 20 percent — or 281,941 will be available immediately, with the remainder based on reimbursement.


These funds can be used for approved expenses related to the pandemic. However, it cannot be used to offset revenue losses that occur in response to the pandemic. Currently, city officials are estimating more than $900,000 in lost sales tax revenues from the pandemic.


"Really what we are going to use these dollars for is some of our expenses that have been incurred related pandemic: So, PPE (personal protective equipment) and other equipment that the fire department has purchase, our personnel expenses that were used to manage during the pandemic and other things related to COVID-19," Rex said.


The majority of the supplies that were purchased have been put into use by first responders and emergency personnel. This includes protective equipment, disinfectant supplies, hand sanitizer and other items aimed at preventing the spread of the virus.


However, this does not represent the largest expense to the city.


"Frankly the largest expense is staff time to managing the pandemic. That’s been out biggest expense so far," Rex said.


"When the pandemic started here locally, we put together a team of staff members from all departments that met daily to respond to the pandemic," Rex continued. "That kind of became our emergency management response team."


In total, Rex said that the city has accrued about $450,000 in expenses related to the pandemic.


"That is taking a very broad approach to people’s time and I am not sure how much of that will be reimbursable."


Rex said he is uncertain how much expense the city will ultimately have from the pandemic, or if it would use all of the funding before it expires at the end of the year.


Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com.