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FLORENCE — If the federal government makes any further CARES Act payments to local governments for expenses related to COVID-19, Pinal County is asking for fairness.

“Pinal County got what I would call the short end of the stick when that money was released the last time,” County Attorney Kent Volkmer told the Board of Supervisors Wednesday. The board approved sending a letter to the U.S. representatives and senators representing Pinal County to request that the county receive its money directly, instead of passing through the state.

In the first CARES Act distribution last year, areas with populations of a half million or more received their money directly from the federal government. But “if you were less than half a million, that money went to your state,” which made its own determination on allocating the funds, Volkmer said.

In Arizona, it took Gov. Doug Ducey two months to release the money. When the money finally arrived, it was only about one-third of what Pinal County should have received, judging by the per-person amounts that went to more-populous cities and counties, Volkmer told the board.

“We’ve done everything short of begging, saying, ‘Please give us more of these funds.’” Pinal County received $27 million, which was instantly depleted by COVID-related costs, so the county used its own General Fund money to help keep businesses afloat with its Business Sustainability Program, Volkmer said.

“It should not be Pinal County residents that are carrying that burden,” he continued. “The purpose of this letter is essentially saying, ‘Please, don’t let that happen again. Give us the money directly.’” Volkmer asked the supervisors to follow up the letter with phone calls with their own personal messages of why it’s important.

The letter says pleading with the governor “has proven unworkable. Such a process creates a situation of the have and have nots based on which side of the county line you live. All citizens of Arizona, no matter what county, city or town should be treated equally and receive the same per capita distribution. This can only happen with your assistance.”

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.