Comptroller meets with local officials to discuss federal COVID money

Tennessee Comptroller Jason Mumpower speaks to local officials.

Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Jason Mumpower spoke to local officials Wednesday, explaining the specifics on federal money that will be handed down to local governments from the American Rescue Plan.

Mumpower told local officials the money could be trickling down from the federal government soon.

“Your money will be first sent to the state,” Mumpower said. “Then on to you. I can tell you we haven’t received the money yet.”

He said he anticipates the money may start trickling down from the federal government within the next two weeks. It should be getting to local governments within the next two to two-and-a-half months, he said.

Congress approved the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan in March and the money is now trickling down to local governments.

Hamblen County is expected to receive $12.6 million, Morristown will receive $8.3 million and the Hamblen County Department of Education will receive more than $20 million from the funds, according to records.

Mumpower came to Walters State Community College Wednesday to speak with area local officials about the expected money trickling down.

Morristown will be one of a few cities that will be able to draw the money directly instead of going through the state, Mumpower said.

Local governments will expect to get two payments from the funds. The first payment will come this year and a second payment will come next year, Mumpower said.

Governments will then have until September 2024 to spend the money before it has to be returned to federal officials.

There are caveats on how the money can be spent, though.

He said the money will only be able to spend money for public health expenses, providing premium pay to essential workers, address economic impacts related to the pandemic, replace lost public sector revenues, invest in water, sewer or broadband projects or expansion of facilities.

“You can use this money to expand your jails,” Mumpower said.

In Hamblen County, local officials have spoken about using part of the money for building a new jail and also school construction.

For premium pay, essential workers can receive up to an additional $13 an hour for a maximum of $25,000.

He said that 20% of the money for education has to be used for learning loss due to the pandemic.

But, there are several ways school systems can use the money.

“They can use their money in a wide, wide variety of ways,” he said.

Mumpower said local governments would not be able to retroactively use any of American Rescue Act money before March 3, 2020 except for essential workers.

“Use this money to do the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of citizens you can,” Mumpower said.