FLORENCE — With a population just under 500,000, Pinal County has been overlooked for federal funding for COVID-19 relief through the U.S. CARES Act.
The Pinal County Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday to have Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer look into the situation and whether Gov. Doug Ducey’s stay-at-home orders are constitutional. The counties need to know the limits of what a governor can impose on a free people, Supervisors Chairman Anthony Smith, R-Maricopa, said.
“I wasn’t going to close the county,” Supervisor Todd House, R-Apache Junction, said. “The governor kind of stepped on our toes and did that for us.”
Supervisor Mike Goodman, R-San Tan Valley, said it’s an important question not just now, but for the future. “If there’s been a violation of the Constitution, it behooves us to look into that.”
Pinal County is still awaiting federal reimbursement for expenditures related to COVID-19 while its neighbors have already received many millions. Pinal County Manager Louis Andersen told the board that as he understands it, entities with a population of 500,000 or more can deal directly with the U.S. government for relief. The most recent estimated census showed Pinal County with 462,000 people.
So far Pinal County and its taxpayers have received zero, Smith said. Meanwhile, Maricopa County has received $326 million; Pima County, $182 million; the city of Mesa, $90 million; the city of Tucson, perhaps $96 million. Phoenix also has received funds. Andersen said the state has had money to distribute for five weeks.
Andersen said the county will receive a $1 million Community Development Block Grant and the board will have a say on how it’s distributed. But the county has yet to receive funding from the CARES Act.
“There’s a lot of money this county has expended due to COVID-19, that’s what that the money is for that the governor keeps holding onto; that I want to look at as quickly as possible,” Vice Chairman Pete Rios, D-Dudleyville, said.
Supervisor Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, also asked Volkmer to determine if county officeholders have been directed to violate their oaths of office in the governor’s directives.