The questions started as soon as the money did. ACL has published a comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions document that covers most of them. If you go to our site it is an alphabetical list of resources under ACL FAQs. Everything in this post is based on that document and the federal regulations found in 45 CFR 75.
Q: We’re reaching out for clarification on part of the FAQs for the CARES Act funding. Under Question 8, it says policies and procedures need to be updated by May 31, 2020. Does this only apply to expenditures that we choose to cover retroactively back to our state of emergency date or to all expenditures through September 30, 2021? We want to plan appropriately, and since the current COVID-19 landscape is very fluid, we envision needing to update policies throughout the next year, in advance of expenditures, as necessary adaptations are made to how the CARES Act funds are used.
A: Note this language at the end of Question 8:
“Due to the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, ACL understands that CILs may not have had all the policies and procedures in place that would address current and unusual circumstances. CILs should actively develop and/or update their policies and procedures as necessary and have them in place no later than May 31, 2020. Policies and procedures may be made effective retroactive to January 20, 2020. “ (Emphasis mine.)
I think this recognizes that you may have been required to react very quickly due to shut downs by your state, and may have acted outside your written policies and procedures. This FAQ grants you a grace period to go back and update your policies to address any costs that weren’t clearly allowed, or to adjust approval procedures to match what you were required to do in these unusual circumstances. My read is that you can make sure you didn’t violate any of your own policies and procedures by modifying them now, to be retroactive to a date earlier than most centers closed their offices to the public. My first step would be to re-read all your policies to verify you followed them or identify when you did not. When you are reviewed for compliance, you will need to show that you followed your own policies and procedures. Examine your policies with that in mind, reviewing them regularly. And just this once, you can make them effective retroactively.
It seems likely that some of these new or revised policies will be related to the state of emergency. If you write them that way, they will be in place during any emergency, not just this one, and would be in force until your board chooses to change them. Yes, you may need to continue to update your policies and procedures – I suggest that at the end of each you carry a list of revision dates so that you also track how fluid the situation is. As far as we are aware, though, this is the only time that you can adjust policies retroactively. Be sure you take advantage of this opportunity to check your actions against your own policies and procedures.