Council approves $1.1Million in COVID-related spending

The Keizer City Council approved more than $1 million in spending related to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Councilors asked few questions regarding details of how the money would be spent or how transactions to reimburse community organizations for up to $500,000 would work. Keizer city officials plan to spend the money with the expectation it will be reimbursed through federal funding made available in the Coronavirus Relief Fund established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress in March. 

“We reached out to partner organizations, like Salvation Army and St. Vincent DePaul, and they said they could use all the money to assist efforts in the community. Unfortunately, we have a few things we’d like to use the money for as well,” said Tim Wood, Keizer finance director. 

A staff memo offered only an outline of how the money would be spent:

• $280,000 for Keizer Civic Center and infrastructure improvements to further reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and support remote work capabilities

• $500,000 for community relief agencies and non-profits to provide financial relief for residents impacted by COVID-19.

• $150,000 for business grants to provide financial relief for businesses impacted by COVID-19 (about a third of this allocation is already being used to supply forgivable business loans.)

• $50,000 for personal protective equipment (PPE) for city staff and community.

• $150,000 to cover unanticipated staff costs as the result of COVID-19.

PPE purchased with the grant funding would likely be shared with the organizations that use the Keizer Cultural Center. 

After the meeting, Wood offered more detail on what was being considered. 

The city is considering a remodel of the customer service area of the city offices that would offer better coverage and protection of city employees from threats ranging from COVID-19 to physical altercations. 

“It would look like the Keizer Police Department’s customer service area but with shatter-resistant glass rather than bulletproof glass,” Wood said. “We are concerned that our temporary sneeze guard isn’t substantial enough to meet some of the proposed guidance being given out by OSHA and the Governor’s Office.”

Wood said the money given to community organizations would be earmarked for financial support to Keizer residents who have been impacted by COVID-19. Whatever funds are earmarked for those purposes would likely be doled out in smaller amounts in exchange for detailed accounting on the part of organizations that receive it. Keeping close track would help the city avoid the money being used for the religious-based activities of organizations such as Salvation Army and St. Vincent DePaul. 

“We have already received confirmation from several of the organizations that they can and already are tracking assistance that they provide to Keizer residents. In addition, they have indicated that they will be able to provide a detailed accounting of how the funds are spent,” Wood said. “We will specifically designate that the funds are to be used only for COVID-19 financial relief. That, combined with a timely accounting of funds, will significantly reduce the risk that they are diverted for other purposes.”

The city is under the gun to qualify for reimbursement of the money, the entire $1.13 million must be spent by Dec. 30. The city transferred money from the general fund, which is the primary source of police department funding, to cover the upfront costs. 

“We will need some help getting the money spent,” Wood said.