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FLORENCE — Pinal County officials believe they’re at least $14 million — and maybe as much as $54 million — short of U.S. CARES Act funds they should have received from the state for COVID-19 relief.

The Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday to send a letter to Gov. Doug Ducey asking for the rest of it.

“We owe it to our constituents,” Supervisor Mike Goodman, R-San Tan Valley, said. “I’m 100 percent on board with this.”

The letter will ask Ducey to allocate CARES Act funds “in accordance with Department of Treasury guidance and congressional intent.” The board stopped short of authorizing legal action at this time.

Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer told the board the state received $1.8 billion to distribute to its smaller cities, towns and counties for COVID-19 relief.

“Ultimately the governor and his team decided that Pinal County should receive about $27 million in direct allocation,” Volkmer told the board. “The guidance provided by the Treasury Department, depending on your interpretation, suggests that we should have gotten either almost $41 million, or $80 million. Nowhere did $27 million come about; that was the governor’s own determination.”

Other counties in other states are in a similar predicament, Volkmer said. “Most of the western states have experienced something very similar to what we have.” He said there’s no check on the governor except to sue him or ask the federal government to provide the governor with more direction.

Chances for this latter option aren’t good, Volkmer said. He said he spoke with Rich Delmar, deputy inspector general for the Treasury Department, who ultimately reported back to Volkmer that the federal government can’t “micromanage” the states. He further noted the guidelines are for how states “should” allocate the money, not how they “shall” do so, which would seem to give states more discretion.

With all this in mind, the inspector general’s office has no plans to intercede on behalf of communities, Volkmer told the board, and asked for the board’s direction on how to proceed.

Supervisor Todd House, R-Apache Junction, said this appears to be another case of Pinal County getting the short end, “and I do believe we have a pretty strong case to stand on to go to the governor and show him the math. … We should ask for what we should have coming.”

Vice Chairman Pete Rios, D-Dudleyville, thanked Volkmer for his due diligence on the issue. He said Pinal County and its citizens deserve to be treated fairly and equitably, and “all we’re doing is asking for fairness.”

Supervisor Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, agreed. “I’d like to see us do something, at least ask, ‘How did you come up with this number, Mr. Governor, and can we talk about it?’”

Board Chairman Anthony Smith, R-Maricopa, asked County Manager Louis Andersen if the county has additional expenses to warrant more funding, and Andersen replied yes.

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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.

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