Maintaining essential everyday services while protecting citizens amid the COVID-19 pandemic has come at a steep price for the current budgets of Alabama’s county governments, according to a new publication.
“Counties on the Front Lines,” a publication by the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, provides an overview of the role counties have played in virus response and mitigation over the past 10 weeks while continuing to administer and deliver a diverse array of critical programs and services — such as aiding the operation of local hospitals, long-term care facilities and public health departments; answering 9-1-1 calls and providing life-saving first response; operating jails and ensuring the patrol of law enforcement; and providing emergency management of and response to disasters.
The publication was released today as many counties with rapidly depleting budgets continue efforts to safely reopen their facilities to the public and as the Ala. Legislature is expected to reconsider a bill impacting distribution of the state’s COVID-19 relief dollars received through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“Last year around this time, Alabama’s counties were developing their budgets for the next fiscal year, and no one had heard of something called COVID-19,” said ACCA Executive Director Sonny Brasfield. “Today, hardly anyone at the county commission level is thinking about anything other than the pandemic we face and the strain it is placing on counties’ ability to provide essential services.”
Labeling COVID-19 as a threat to essential government services, the publication provides a short list of counties’ many costly COVID-19 response measures thus far, each requiring increased and diverted use of county staff time and/or county funds.
“Since the onset of COVID-19 in Ala., a significant portion of current county budgets have been expended in maintaining service levels while adhering to state and federal health orders and guidelines to protect local communities,” Brasfield said. “Without sufficient financial relief, county leaders will soon be forced to assess what remains of their current budget and decide whether to continue providing existing services or to protect citizens from the current public health crisis.”
According to the publication, its purpose is to provide a glimpse of counties’ work “on the front lines” of the pandemic and to encourage support of county governments in legislative discussions regarding the use of Alabama’s CARES Act reimbursement funds.
The Association of County Commissions of Alabama is a statewide organization speaking for all 67 counties with ONE Voice. It promotes improved county government services in Alabama, offers educational programs for county officials and their staff members, administers insurance programs for county governments and employees, offers legal advice, and represents the interests of county government before state and federal organizations and agencies.