Jeffco Commission Removes Cares Act Funding for Mission Alabama

Lashunda Scales removes Mission Alabama from Cares Act funding. Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.

Lashunda Scales removed Mission Alabama from the entities getting Cares Act funds on Thursday during in the final meeting of the Jefferson County Commission for 2020.

All of the federal money allotted to help entities deal with the challenges of the novel coronavirus pandemic were to have been allotted prior to Dec. 30. The commission is not scheduled to have another meeting before then.

During their committee meeting on Tuesday, commissioners talked about the primary contractors –- Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity (JCCEO) and Birmingham Urban League –- involved in assisting residents with utility bills and mortgages. Mission Alabama was also included on today’s meeting agenda to be in line for funds.

When questioned about that, Justin Smith, an assistant to County Manager Tony Petelos, said Mission Alabama was included in case it presented the needed documentation to get the money. If not included today, he said, that operation would be shut out.

Justin Smith, assistant to County Manager Tony Petelos. Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.

Commissioner Steve Ammons initially moved to approve all of the resolutions on the agenda, including the one involving JCCEO, Urban League and Mission Alabama. Scales asked that the resolution involving that matter be given separate consideration; she subsequently offered a motion that left out Mission Alabama.

“My request to have the agency in question removed from the Cares Act appropriation was due in part to a lack of (receipts and invoices) involving a $10,000 contractual engagement by my office with this agency to support food deficiencies in my commission district,” Scales said later. “While I hope only the best for their organization, it is my belief that (the county) is better served to move in a different direction.”

Like Santa Claus, Jefferson County made a list and checked it twice, not to determine naughty or nice but to make sure every entity eligible for Cares Act funds got them.

“We don’t want to leave anything on the table that we don’t have to,” said Smith, the assistant to the county manager. “We’ve kind of gone through everything with a fine-tooth comb, trying to make sure that the applications that we have pending that we’ve got the proper authorizations to move forward with those once we verify eligibility and that we’ve taken care of all of our internal stuff as well.

“We’re absolutely checking our list twice, and I think we’re pretty close on where we need to be to close this out across the finish line.”

The commission was responsible for doling out nearly $115 million in Cares Act funding. To be eligible for funding under the act, the cost has to be incurred prior to Dec. 30.

“But as long as the costs are incurred, you can clean up some of the accounting stuff on the back end,” Smith said. “The Treasury (Office of the Inspector General) OIG says there’s a presumption that you can clean it up afterwards. They set the audit standards on what they’re going to be looking at in terms of coming back after and making sure these funds were used in accordance with the Cares Act.”