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City of Reno unveils ‘Coronavirus Relief Fund’ spending plan

By Sudhiti Naskar

The Reno City Council discussed Wednesday how it will spend more than $46 million received in federal COVID-19 relief funds.

This is certainly good news for families and local businesses, considering the State of Nevada is experiencing financial belt-tightening due to a historic budget shortfall.

The City Council has received various proposals from the community on how to spend this money. However, there are restrictions and a deadline on spending. Federal guidelines make it clear that the funds must be used only for new expenses arising out of the pandemic situation, not to “backfill” budget shortfalls. 

The payments will come in two phases. Money released in the first phase must be spent by Sept. 1. A final 50% would be paid only if the City submits a reimbursement claim or a detailed spending plan by that date.

The City now has to come up with a plan to be submitted to the State. Its focus remains on public safety, health care and human services. 

This is how the money could be spent: 

The City might receive a one time $3.5 million reimbursement of existing and non-budgeted COVID-19 related expenses like personal protective equipment (PPE), paid leave, staff overtime and sanitizing equipment. 

An estimated $4.4 million could be spent for improving infrastructures such as IT, fire and police to enable people to safely work from home, if the plan goes through. 

As parents mull school reopening plans, $500,000 could be spent to help at-risk students studying remotely.

The city has taken into account that some businesses might need direct intervention to wait out the financial dip. More than $2.5 million could be spent in phases to pay off losses incurred by businesses which have been closed as per Gov. Steve Sisolak’s directives.

The plan shows a special focus on helping out various vulnerable populations in Reno. 

A total of $7.5 million could be spent to acquire and build shelters for the homeless population. 

In addition, $2.5 million could be allocated to ease rent-related problems. The rent relief may include direct payment to the landlords to settle rent dues to keep people sheltered for “as long as possible.” Reno Housing Authority is already providing rental assistance to local residents through the CARES Housing Assistance Program, administered through the state, but those funds are limited.

City officials said they want to help with the region’s mental health crisis by spending some $5.5 million on mental health care for “specific, COVID-traceable, mental health response.” 

Another $1.5 million is being proposed to ensure food supply to people facing food insecurity. 

Parks and recreation facilities could get $1.6 million to ensure environments where families can enjoy themselves while maintaining social distancing.

COVID-related education, communication and enforcement could get an amount of $500,000; Pandemic research and measurement could get $200,000 in support.

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