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Greenwood planning to make the most of COVID-19 relief funds

Greenwood received $1.9 million from the CARES Act to help with costs from COVID-19.

GREENWOOD, Ind. — Like every community, COVID-19 came at a cost for the city budget in Greenwood.

Now, they're getting money through the CARES Act to help reimburse expenses made during the pandemic to protect employees and first responders.

With Johnson County's largest population, Greenwood got the largest share of CARES Act money in the county - approved for $1.9 million.

Right now, the city is crunching the numbers to see what they've spent so far on COVID-related expenses and how to specifically use the reimbursement, which targets specific costs.

Things like overtime, PPE for police, fire, EMS and city buildings, cleaning supplies and thermometers are all eligible for reimbursement, if they were purchased between March and the end of the year.

At the Greenwood Fire Department, there are boxes and stacks of supplies that are keeping our frontline heroes safe.

But months of money for PPE, cleaners and overtime are adding up.

Greenwood's Assistant Fire Chief, Brad Coy, says PPE alone was very costly to keep firefighters and EMS staff safe.

"I would ballpark for the personal protective equipment in the range of $25,000," Coy said. "That's just for gowns, masks, gloves, potentially a little bit of cleaning supplies. That's not counting overtime, manpower, other cleaning supplies for the firehouses and equipment, so quite a bit of money."

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"Every call out for a fire ems call, you had to have masks for every single person, gloves for every single person," added Greenwood City Controller Greg Wright. "You can't keep the same ones so they're constantly going through them."

Credit: WTHR
PPE supplies in Greenwood, Indiana.

The cost of COVID-19 is hitting all communities across Indiana hard.

Now Greenwood's taking a look at how much it spent and deciding how to use money from the federal CARES Act to get back on track financially.

Greenwood got approved for up to $1.9 million in reimbursement dollars for items like thermometers being used to screen visitors at the city building.

The CARES Act covers coronavirus-related expenses bought between March 27 and the end of the year. 

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"Anything that we've spent on COVID response, particularly personal protective equipment - masks gloves, overtime hours specific to that," Wright said. 

"And all that stuff costs money," Coy said.

"It's a big hit. Not only are we looking at unplanned expenditures, we're also looking at revenue hits," Wright added.

But CARES Act cash does not cover and cannot be used for lost revenue, like when the city's pool opening got delayed by the pandemic.

And like many communities, Greenwood took a hit in revenue for things like its street department and parks department. Freedom Springs, for example, and the community center were closed and the gas tax revenues have gone down.

"Gas taxes are down so that affects what we can do with our street department. Our parks department had to close down a lot of their facilities so we estimate probably a half a million dollars in revenues lost there," Wright said. 

Wright says cuts have to make up for that shortfall. He says planned street improvements at Main and Madison have been pushed back.

Also, some parks projects, like a house the department planned to renovate and turn into an event rental space, won't happen until next year.

Still, city leaders and first responders say the unexpected costs of COVID-19 are about to get some welcome financial relief.

"City-wide and I know at the fire department, it will definitely be put to good use," Coy said. 

The city of Greenwood says it also received more than $200,000 through a federal block grant to help food pantries and senior services hit hard during the pandemic.

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