WMBF INVESTIGATES: Horry County cities receiving millions less than estimated from federal program

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 7:07 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - This week, the U.S. Department of Treasury is launching billions of dollars in funding to help cities, counties and states recover financially from the pandemic.

But towns in Horry County say what they’re getting now isn’t what had been discussed in the past, in fact, it’s millions of dollars less than what had been estimated.

The money was coming via the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, which are part of the American Rescue Plan.

WMBF Investigates wanted to find what towns were being allocated and what the funds would be used for. But that’s when we found out, though the funding would be helpful, it would be a fraction of what was more or less anticipated.

According to the House Oversight Committee’s original estimates from February, the City of Conway was estimated to receive $9.6 million.

The number announced this week: $4.3 million.

“We intentionally did not do any budget preparations until the final interim guidance came out. Certainly, we would prefer the greater amount and there has not been any explanation for the difference,” said Adam Emrick, Conway’s city administrator, in an email.

North Myrtle Beach was listed for an estimated $6.2 million, but they will instead be allocated $1.9 million.

“There were other figures circulating over the past few weeks,” Pat Dowling, the city’s spokesperson, said in an email. “But they were word-of-mouth and considered to be speculative by the city.”

The City of Myrtle Beach is set to receive $7.9 million after being under the impression it would get $12.9 million instead.

“We still, at this point, don’t have a good answer for why the reduction occurred, or where that extra money was reallocated - if it was reallocated,” explained Mark Kruea, spokesperson for the City of Myrtle Beach.

According to a budget retreat presentation, Myrtle Beach leaders hoped to beef up some of the city’s funds and put it towards capital improvement projects. Those will have to be delayed.

With what remains, the city is still looking to put it towards the general fund and give a bonus to all staff.

“What we do is provide service, and we do that at a very high level. And our staff certainly has been called upon over the last year and a half to do that - we want to make sure that their worth is appreciated,” said Kruea.

The Municipal Association for South Carolina told WMBF Investigates they’ve reached out to the Department of Treasury to understand why there has been a substantial difference between estimates and what was finalized.

They “have yet to receive a clear answer regarding what happened,” a spokesperson said in an email Friday.

The National League of Cities displays on their website what cities and other localities could expect from the funding. Before the Department of Treasury’s announcement, they listed the initial estimates and were clear that those weren’t the finalized amounts.

But a spokesperson for the organization said in an email, “We are aware of some differences in the final allocation amounts.”

“We are encouraging the U.S. Department of Treasury to provide context and transparency with their calculations so we have better understanding of the allocations amounts,” Megan Corey, spokesperson for the National League of Cities, said.

WMBF Investigates also reached out to Rep. Tom Rice’s office regarding the funds.

A spokesperson said they had provided estimated numbers to the Horry County Council at their request through a letter sent back in February.

The estimates listed there are much more conservative.

If those numbers had been the final allocation, the City of Myrtle Beach would have only been allocated $6.2 million.

The City of Myrtle Beach said they had not received a letter from Rice.

“I think we certainly could survive without the money - we’d be a little bit tighter,” Kruea said. “This will help speed the recovery though for our Myrtle Beach economy and the city.”

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