CASA GRANDE — Casa Grande Chamber members got an update from Mayor Craig McFarland Friday on some of the city’s plans for the CARES Act money it is expecting to receive from the state.
McFarland said the city has applied for its first disbursement of funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act from the state. He didn’t say how much the city has applied for or how much it expects to get in the first installment.
The city has a variety of plans for the funds including helping local businesses and nonprofits, supporting a shop local campaign, purchasing personal protective equipment that can be distributed to individuals and businesses, helping to fund child care services and housing needs, funding job training support and funding more education on how the public can protect itself from COVID-19.
In the process of trying to figure out how to best use the funds, the city has run into a problem, McFarland said. A state law called the Gift Clause prevents cities from giving money directly to businesses.
The city is working with the Arizona League of Cities and Towns to find a way to find an exception to the law or find a way to distribute the money through grants to nonprofit organizations or agencies such as Local First Arizona, the Greater Casa Grande Chamber of Commerce, AZ@Work, the Community Action Human Resources Agency and various charities.
If the city can disburse the money through grants, one of the projects that it is looking at funding is internet access for local students. McFarland said the city has been working with an internet provider and the local school districts to provide students who don’t have internet access with 100 megabytes of free internet service.
McFarland acknowledged that 100 megabytes of data won’t go far. The average family uses between 300 to 400 megabytes, he said. But 100 megabytes should be enough for a student to access virtual classes and homework.
The city is also looking at how it can use the funds to purchase modems for students who don’t have internet access, he said.
The city is also partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs to provide child care services for families using CARES Act funds, McFarland said. That may include using the funds to open some schools to expand Boys & Girls Club programs and possibility creating a fund to help cover the cost of child care for some families.
Casa Grande is also looking at partnering with CAHRA to use CARES Act money to help residents who may need help covering utility bills and housing costs.
The city is also hoping to work with AZ@Work to help provide funding for job training and other services to help residents who have been laid off to find new work and businesses to find new employees.
The city is also hoping to use some of the CARES Act funds to support a shop local campaign through the chamber, Casa Grande Main Street and other organizations.
The program includes a social media contest where residents or visitors can purchase a T-shirt from the chamber or a participating business for $15 and then post a photo of themselves wearing the shirt near one of the city’s signs or attractions, such as the Neon Sign Park. The winner of the contest gets a $25 gift certificate to a local business.
The city is also using some of the funds to support the shop local passport/stamp program that it is developing as part of its tourism marketing campaign. The program would have visitors pick up a paper “passport” at the chamber or participating businesses. Visitors can then fill the passport with stamps by visiting local businesses or activities such as visiting Dave White Regional Park. The city and chamber are considering having visitors turn in the passports to enter into a contest to win a prize, such as a gift certificate to a local business.