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City Sends Back Unspent $2.3 million COVID Funds Without Explanation

By Paula Sterite and Josh Resnek

The return has returned to the state 2.3 million in COVID emergency funding the city of Everett could have used for a variety of expenditures including school expenses.

City financial records reveal the city wrote a check to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for $2,307,912.85 on June 30, 2022.

The city used some of the total amount it got in COVID emergency funding to pay back the Everett Public Schools for $471,000 of COVID expenses it incurred in 2020, but the payments were made so late in the budgetary process that the School Department never got to use the money.

This raises the question of why the city waited so long to reimburse the city.

In what might be viewed as bureaucratic incompetence or outright political retaliation, the city ultimately refunded the money to the School Department but the refund was too late to be used in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget because the refund arrived after the schools closed their books in 2020.

Unable to spend the money because its books had been closed, the School Department account was swept of the $471,000 by the city and placed into the city’s free cash account.

The result, the School Department is out $471,000 of funding it could have used in a variety of ways in 2021 and 2022 and the city likely used the funds elsewhere.

This translates into the School Department losing $471,000 it had already spent, funding which might have been applied to other School Department pressing needs.

A request to the mayor for an explanation went unanswered.

The State apparently found 3 ineligible expenditures for Regan Communications and Website usage fees, totaling $106,366.80, which the city tried to reimburse itself for with part of the total package of emergency COVID funding.

The school system incurred $471,140 of COVID related expenses in FY20 for which they turned in all of the receipts to the City. Records show that the School Administration notified the Administration of this when they submitted their receipts. The City ultimately received the money from the state for School expenses.

This transaction raises more questions than it answers.

The Everett Public Schools closed their FY20 books at the end of August. This left the School Department no time in reimbursement money to work. In the end, the School Department had no time to spend the money.

Why did the City notify the School Department of the reimbursement so late it could not be used?

Why did the City wait so long to reimburse the School Department?

Why didn’t the administration notify the School Department in a timely way of the reimbursement, especially when it was to come so close to the end of their fiscal year?

Below is a list of expenses included in the $471,000 reimbursement that was swept from the School Department account and placed in the city’s free cash account.

The city returned $2.3 million dollars it could have spent on array of things for the Schools, OT incurred by the fire department during COVID, services for the elderly and small businesses.

However, the city sent the money back.

This leaves the city without 2.3 million in free emergency in funding.

That funding, in one way or another, will be made up through taxation.

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