COVID-19 Funding for the Public Sector: What’s Left?

May 14, 2020
Impact Makers

By Brooke Willemstyn, Associate Consultant

When the CARES Act passed on March 27, 2020, an impressive $2 trillion became steadily available as federal relief and stimulus trickled out to the American people. Rampant discussion has followed the publication of these 800+ pages in attempts to simplify and guide the country toward all the opportunities to secure pieces of these funds; however, much of this discussion has been as overwhelming as the original act itself. At Impact Makers, we understand the real questions our clients and community members need answered: What do I qualify for? What do I have to do to get these funds? Allow us to personalize the conversation and walk you through the “need to know”.

Image Credit: NPR

This blog will speak to the opportunities available to our friends in the public sector. Although the funding can be split across several different lines, state and local government allocations are estimated at around $340 billion. The bulk of this funding is going towards predetermined groups such as the Administration for Children and Families ($6.3 billion), Department of Education ($30 billion), and so on. Here are the Top 3 key funds within this package with the largest span of allowable activities that are still accepting applications (as of 4/30/2020):

  1. FEMA Disaster Relief Fund / Public Assistance – $45 billion
  2. Community Development Block Grants – $5 billion
  3. Economic Adjustment Assistance Program – $1.5 billion
FEMA Disaster Relief Fund


$45 billion of funding open to the following:

  • States, local, tribal and territorial governments
  • Eligible private nonprofits such as hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes can apply for assistance under a recipient’s federal award (ex: these entities would apply to their state, locality, or territory who received the public assistance reward)

Sample of Allowable Activities:

  • Reimbursement for the cost of emergency measures to protect the public health and safety
  • Medical response, personal protective equipment, National Guard deployment, coordination of logistics, safety measures and community services nationwide.

How to Apply:

  1. Recipients attend virtual applicant briefing (those interested in attended a briefing should contact state, local, tribal and territorial governments)
  2. Log on and create account at Public Assistance (PA) Grants Portal
  3. Submit a Request for Public Assistance (RPA)
  4.  Submit a COVID-19 Streamlined Project Application
  5. FEMA and recipient review documents
  6. Applicant signs Project
  7. Receive funding through recipient


  • FEMA will not duplicate assistance provided by HHS (Health and Human Services), CDC, or other federal agencies
  • FEMA will not likely fund “increased operating expenses” as a result of lost fees or tax revenue
  • Disaster Relief Fund dollars for COVID-19 are made available to states via the March 13 national emergency declaration and subsequent state major disaster declaration requests
Community Development Block Grants


$5 billion for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program to enable states, counties and cities to respond to economic and housing impacts caused by COVID-19, including the expansion of community health facilities, childcare centers, food banks and senior services.

Sample of Allowable Activities:

  • Acquisition, construction, reconstruction, or installation of public works, facilities or other improvements
  • Provision of assistance to private, for-profit entities when appropriate to carry out an economic development project
  • Carry out job training to expand the pool of healthcare workers and technicians that are available to treat disease within a community
  • Rehabilitation of buildings and improvements (including interim assistance)
  • Provision of assistance to microenterprises
  • Provide equipment, supplies, and materials necessary to carry out a public service

State-Specific Opportunities:

  1. Planning activities that demonstrate that they would meet a national objective (subject to the State’s 20% cap)
  2. Hiring of technical assistance providers to deliver CDBG training to new subrecipients and local government departments that are administering CDBG funds for the first time to assist with infectious disease response (subject to State’s 3% cap)

How to Apply:

HUD has yet to publish the Federal Register for this funding which will outline more specific requirements and application steps. Potential grantees are encouraged to begin planning their proposals in anticipation of this publication.

Check the HUD’s Memorandum page for additional updates:

Economic Adjustment Assistance Program


This funding was allocated to the Economic Development Administration to provide grants to eligible entities, including state and local governments pursuing coordinated, long-term responses to assist with economic recovery.

Sample of Allowable Activities:

  • “Strategy grants” to create or update a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy or disaster recovery plan
  • Capitalization of revolving loan funds, which generally assist small businesses, and other initiatives to improve access to and utilization of private capital
  • Construction or upgrades to public infrastructure
  • Activities that support the creation of businesses and jobs, including economic
    diversification strategies

How to Apply:

  1. Complete and upload application through this portal:


  • Cost-sharing with federal government grants: generally, 50-80% but for disaster economic activities it may be up to 100% federal cost share
  • No deadline at this time

We strongly encourage state and local government agencies to monitor and pursue these three key opportunities for funding through the CARES Act. Much of the public sector funding has been pre-allocated, or will be distributed entirely at the discretion of state agencies and governors. The FEMA Disaster Relief Fund, Community Development Block Grants, and the EDA’s Economic Adjustment Assistance Program are among the most flexible and application-friendly out of the entire state and local government package. Many of these updates are time-sensitive and change frequently, so we invite you to visit the following resources for the most recent information:

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