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Las Vegas plans most coronavirus relief funds for public safety payroll

Updated May 21, 2020 - 9:45 am

Las Vegas city officials on Wednesday revealed how they want to use the vast majority of $119 million in federal coronavirus relief funding: to pay public safety personnel.

During a budget hearing, Chief Financial Officer Gary Ameling said the city intended to use $97.2 million toward a portion of its public safety payroll.

“Primarily through the eligible uses of the monies, we’re planning to keep our public safety services going,” he said, adding that it would be earmarked for the period March 1 through June 30.

Ameling cited guidance by the U.S. Treasury Department that local and other governments “may presume that payroll costs for public health and public safety employees are payments for services substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency.”

The city spent about $390 million during the present fiscal year on the Metropolitan Police Department and city fire and public safety departments, according to the city’s open data portal. The largest costs were salaries and benefits.

Ameling said the city would also like to use $9.8 million toward paying non-public safety employees, who have performed work related to the pandemic including with homelessness and sanitizing streets.

City officials say that restrictions on allowable uses of the money, which derives from the CARES Act, continue to evolve. The funds still may not be used to replace lost revenue and can only be spent on coronavirus-related costs from March 1 through Dec. 30.

Ameling said the city’s other spending estimates call for $3 million for improvements at city facilities, including installation of plexiglass; $2 million to cover operating expenses at the homeless isolation and quarantine complex at Cashman Center; $1 million on testing and $500,000 on personal protective equipment.

The city also wants to spend the remaining $5.4 million on other programs such as a $4 million effort to help at least 1,000 small businesses with coronavirus-related expenses: personal protective equipment, retrofitting facilities to enhance health and safety, and other costs “reasonably needed to prepare the business for reopening or expanded reopening,” it said in a statement.

Federal guidelines say that any CARES Act money not spent by Dec. 30 will be lost. Under the city’s plan, its allotment will be used by June 30.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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