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Allocation methods still hazy as some Horry County cities receive federal rescue funding

Updated: May. 26, 2021 at 8:48 PM EDT
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HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - Municipalities are starting to receive funding from a federal pandemic rescue program, but the numbers are a lot less than earlier estimates, and advocates are still in the dark as to why that is.

The American Rescue Plan’s Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds have started being disbursed to different localities.

According to the House Oversight Committee’s original estimates from February, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, and Conway were estimated to receive millions more than what the finalized numbers from the U.S. Department of Treasury show.

“The allocations for state and local recovery funds are determined based on requirements set forth by Congress in the law they passed... some organizations made some simplifying assumptions that did not implement the full statutory requirements which are difficult to take into account when developing early estimates,” a Treasury official said in an email.

The methods of how much should go to each town, county and state varies, according to the Treasury Department. But South Carolina advocates said the way these numbers are being calculated isn’t clear enough.

RELATED COVERAGE | Horry County cities receiving millions less than estimated

“We are working to understand exactly what happened. We saw some cities and towns reclassified from a non-entitlement unit of government to a metropolitan city,” said Erica Wright, the legislative and public policy advocate for the Municipal Association of South Carolina.

Wright said they were clear with cities and towns that the numbers shared from the House Oversight Committee were estimates, but she understands the position towns are in.

“You won the lottery, you won $10 million, and then it’s time to payout and it’s $2,000 - you know, you’re going to have questions, even though it’s additional money,” Wright said.

Allocations some South Carolina cities and towns are getting look like a disproportionately higher level of funding than others. The municipalities either fall under the metropolitan city allocation methodology or the non-entitlement unit methodology - and those calculations are very different.

Municipalities with 50,000 people or less traditionally fall within the non-entitlement unit framework. The allocation in federal funds for these towns are proportionate to population.

But a Department of Treasury official told WMBF that the law sees metropolitan cities as municipalities that are defined underneath the Community Development Block Grant program, or if they had relinquished or deferred their status as a metropolitan city for that program.

That means even a smaller city could be subject to a more complex calculation when the federal government determined the portion of funding it should get.

That’s the calculation that’s hazy still.

“What was the methodology, what was the formula - we don’t have clarity on that. And so we hope to get it,” Wright said.

Wright said Sen. Tim Scott’s team is aware of the difference between what’s been estimated and what’s been finalized and is working to help as well.

“I’m very optimistic that we’ll be able to say, ‘Here’s how your funding was determined,’” Wright said.

Conway said it has received its first installment of funding, which comes out to be $2.2 million. North Myrtle Beach has received $977,000.

The city of Myrtle Beach is still going through to process to receive its allocation.

We’ve reached out to the Congressional Research Service for more information on the earlier estimates given before the Department of Treasury carried out its own calculations in accordance with the statute.

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