Clallam nears utility assistance agreement with federal funds

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commissioners have vetted the second of three proposed subrecipient agreements to provide financial relief to county residents affected by COVID-19.

The three commissioners reviewed Monday a $45,200 agreement with Clallam County Public Utility District to provide residential utility assistance to customers who have incurred hardships, such as a layoff or illness related to the coronavirus pandemic.

County commissioners are expected to approve the agreement for Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding next Tuesday.

The PUD would use the federal funds to award credits of $75 to $375 to residents who have incurred a financial hardship due to the public health emergency, Clallam County Chief Financial Officer Mark Lane said Monday.

The county must report its subrecipients’ CARES Act spending to the state Department of Commerce, Lane said.

PUD Finance Manager-Treasurer Sean Worthington said the district had concerns about sharing too much information about customers who receive the utility credits.

“We didn’t want to be in a position where we were oversharing customers’ information to make sure that we maintain their confidentiality and their privacy,” Worthington told county commissioners Monday.

“Other than that, we have no issues with the agreement and are happy to provide whatever you need to satisfy your audit.”

Lane said he was working with Clallam County Chief Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney David Alvarez on language to require account numbers rather than names and addresses of PUD customers who receive the credits.

“One of the things that we don’t want to do is create a barrier to assistance being provided,” Lane said in the commissioners’ work session.

“But at the same time, we have to make sure that what we’re collecting and have access to information that satisfies our requirements that we have under federal grant rules.”

County commissioners Randy Johnson and Bill Peach said they shared Worthington’s concerns about confidentiality and privacy.

Clallam County PUD serves utility customers in unincorporated areas and those within the cities of Sequim and Forks.

The city of Port Angeles, which has its own electric utility, is expected to receive $89,900 in county-directed CARES Act funding for rent, mortgage and utility assistance in a subsequent agreement, Lane said.

The city of Port Angeles established its own utility and rent payment assistance programs in March.

County commissioners will consider the first subrecipient agreement — a $214,900 payment to Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP) for rental and mortgage assistance — when they gather in a virtual meeting at 10 a.m. today.

Clallam County received $4.18 million in CARES Act funding for needs related to the pandemic.

Most of that funding has been allocated for public health, business support, rental and utility assistance, support for the homeless population, child care and food security.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].

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