COVID-19 has not shut down government contracting
With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full force, most government decisions are being made via teleconference. Public hearings, meetings, and conversations about business decisions must still meet all transparency statutes. Current conversations tend to revolve around whether to hold bond elections or postpone them a few months. Budget discussions are also very common. The SPI Team is following both COVID-19 and upcoming business conversations carefully.
The state of Texas holds bond elections in May and November. Several bond elections scheduled for May have now been moved to November because almost everything has been overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For public entities still planning to hold May bond elections, social distancing guidelines will be observed. The city of Amarillo has decided to postpone its $275 million bond election until November. Included in that bond package is a proposed $319 million Civic Center expansion project. Additionally, the bond includes $155 million for a new arena, $117.5 million for a convention center expansion, $20 million for relocation of city services, $15 million for a parking garage, $8 million for the restoration of the Santa Fe Depot, and $3.5 million for a Central Plaza Park.
Washington, D.C., like many other local governments, faces fiscal uncertainty. Approval of new budgets is on hold as officials wait for funding to support the containment and suppression of COVID-19. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) recently approved a $3.9 billion budget that begins July 1. It includes $2.1 billion for operating expenses and $1.8 billion for capital investments. The transit agency has suffered financially because of lost fare revenue, but the authority will receive a portion of $1 billion provided by the Federal Transit Administration. The board also recently discussed a six-year, $9.7 billion Capital Improvement Plan, with investments totaling $1.8 billion for Fiscal Year 2021. Major projects include station systems improvements, infrastructure upgrades, and bus and terminal station upgrades.
The Florida Legislature concluded its 66-day annual session in March and passed a $93.2 billion state budget. It included $300 million for the coronavirus pandemic starting in July. The state should receive approximately $12 billion in April from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act with $8.3 billion targeted to state and local governments. The state hopes to receive $4.6 billion of that amount, with $3.7 billion divided between local governmental entities. The CARES Act also allows Florida to tap into other new funding sources such as the $45 billion Disaster Relief Fund, $130 billion hospital fund, $30.75 billion Education Stabilization Fund, and $31.billion in assistance for transit systems, election security, National Guard deployments, and health agencies.
Gov. Laura Kelly signed a bill to launch a $10 billion Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Program to impact the state’s economy after COVID-19. The program will use existing funds to pay for $1 billion a year in projects, and projects will be launched every two years. The state will be able to expedite $300 million worth of big projects with a fast-tracked ‘designing-while-building’ process. The program commits $85 million over 10 years for broadband and ensures that each county will receive at least $8 million in transportation improvements.
Voters in Springfield approved a $168 million school bond last year. Three projects currently in the design phase include Hillcrest High School, Williams Elementary, and Jarrett Middle School. Construction is expected to begin this summer. Work on a $17.9 million elementary school project will start in August and include turning a media center into a space for the Boys & Girls Club and demolishing and rebuilding the rest of the space. The first phase of the high school project will cost $24.7 million, and the new middle school will cost $41.5 million and include the demolition of Portland Elementary.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in the Kansas City district is rehabilitating levees and is focused on 62 projects. More than two dozen other repair projects in the Kansas City district aren’t ready for bids. The average amount of time to fully repair a levee is around 120 days, and the USACE expects a two-year duration for levee rehabilitation. Record flooding in 2019 damaged several Missouri River and Kansas River levees, many of which have yet to be repaired.
An intergovernmental support agreement between the city of Enid and the Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission allows the city to finance and execute construction of a 100-bed dormitory at Vance Air Force Base. The $10 million project will be repaid by the Air Force to the city over a 10-year period. The current dorms were built in the 1950s, and the aging facilities do not meet the modern Air Force standards.
The U.S. Secretary of Education announced a new process to streamline funding during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new flexibilities allow schools to repurpose existing K-12 education funds for technology infrastructure and teacher training on distance learning. States interested in these flexibilities must complete a form available at oese.ed.gov. The form will allow this change in the use of funds and other requirements covered under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The CARES Act includes $30.75 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund dedicated to three streams: K-12 schools, higher education, and governors. Governors are to receive $3 billion directly in flexible funding to distribute toward educational needs. The remaining funds will flow to state education agencies and higher education.
Public schools also will get some needed assistance from the U.S. Forest Service. More than $215 million will go to 41 states and Puerto Rico for distribution to 742 eligible counties. Funding, which comes from mineral leases, timber sales, recreation, and grazing will be used to support public schools, roads, and county programs.
President Donald Trump has referenced a fourth round of stimulus measures that will likely target infrastructure projects.
The COVID-19 virus is taking its toll, but it is not shutting down government contracting.