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City of Orem uses CARES Act expenditures to help first responders, more

By Genelle Pugmire daily Herald - | Nov 20, 2020
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Lori Merritt, a business license specialist, helps guide Jennifer Sisoutham, a communications agent, through a task as they assist a community member at the Orem Help Center on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019, in the Orem City Center building. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

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A stock image of the front of Orem City Center.

On March 27, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act went into law. Utah County received $111.6 million of those federal funds.

On June 17, the Utah County Commission voted to allocate $45.8 million of that money to cities and towns in the county based on population while the county to held onto $45.8 million. The remaining $20 million was set aside to go toward economic relief for businesses and nonprofits throughout the county.

Orem received $7.9 million of the funds set aside for municipalities. The city, like others in the county, immediately gave back $1 million to the county for use with economic development support.

The remaining $6.9 million has been used for purchasing personal protective equipment for first responders in the city.

With encouragement from the United States Department of the Treasury, who would prefer as few purchases as possible for future auditing concerns, Orem has put much of the remainder of the money toward first responder payroll, deputy city manager Steven Downs said.

Downs said money has also been used to make the public buildings more environmentally safe, such as installing in hands-free electronic doors, obtaining Plexiglas shields, remodeling public restroom, developing new software to better help customers remotely and getting laptop computers for personnel who must work from home.

The city also purchased a Zoom license so they can hold remote meetings, including city council meetings.

“Money has also gone for hazard pay for employees that worked through the pandemic,” Downs said.

For health reasons, new furniture for shared public spaces has also been purchased. Most of the furniture in the city building were made with cloth that holds on to germs and is costly to keep clean.

“The furniture is not cloth, but like vinyl that is easier to disinfect,” Downs said.

The CARES Act money is meant to help relieve issues brought to light throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are under pretty strict guidelines,” Downs said. “We look forward to putting money back into the community.”

Future plans include hiring local contractors for things like the public bathroom remodel, Downs said.

The city also received Community Development Block Grant money through the CARES Act to use for things affected by COVID-19. That report is not finalized.

The CARES money is meant to be used between March and December. At this time, it is not known if the city or the county will received additional funds. Local leadership is waiting on the U.S. Congress to determine that.


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