Apple Valley, Minnesota Obtains CARES Act Funds to Improve Citizen Recreation Access
When COVID-19 shut down Apple Valley offices—along with the rest of the country—the Parks & Recreation Department found itself challenged to find innovative ways to continue accomplishing their mission, all while keeping citizens safe and healthy. To support their investment in the CivicRec recreation management software from CivicPlus®, they requested and obtained federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The Challenges of Recreation Service and Engagement During the Coronavirus Pandemic
According to Susan Muelken, City of Apple Valley Recreation Manager, the greatest struggle the City faced during the COVID-19 crisis was ensuring programming consistency.
“Our biggest struggle was how to be able to continue to offer programs and facilities while keeping customers and staff safe from COVID exposure,” said Muelken.
She adds that even before the pandemic, she and her team identified a need to enhance Apple Valley’s recreation management, activity, and facility reservation services, although the need was exacerbated by the City’s social distancing requirements and public office closures.
“We needed a better…way to continue business,” said Muelken. “We wanted to be able to have our customers do more things online, [like book] registrations and facility reservations. One of our biggest problems to solve was our open play check-in. We have hundreds of people stopping at the desk to pay to play volleyball, badminton, and pickleball. The line could be long and slow, so we needed to solve that problem.”
The CARES Act Application Process
Congress passed the CARES Act, and President Trump signed it into law on March 27, 2020. This over $2 trillion economic relief package intended to provide fast and direct economic assistance for American workers, families, and small businesses and preserve jobs for American industries. It established a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund to provide payments to State, Local, and Tribal governments navigating the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. By June 2020, the U.S. Department of the Treasury made payments from the Fund to states and eligible local government units.
The CARES Act requires that the payments from the Coronavirus Relief Fund only be used to cover expenses that:
- Are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency concerning the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19), and
- Were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 (the date of enactment of the CARES Act) for the state or government, and
- Were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020, and ends on December 30, 2020.
The law defines necessary expenditures as those that must be used for actions taken to respond to the public health emergency by addressing medical or public health needs; or responding to the emergency’s second-order effects. An item of expenditure will be deemed reasonably necessary for its intended use in the reasonable judgment of the government officials responsible for spending Fund payments.
In Minnesota, on June 25, 2020, Gov. Tim Walz distributed $841.5 million of CARES Act funds to counties, cities, and townships with populations over 200. Muelken and her team applied for and received funding from the state’s allotment to invest in the long-term future of their engagement, activity, and facility registration capabilities by implementing CivicRec.
“The advice I’d give to other communities looking to obtain CARES Act funding successfully is to justify your need and recognize what problems you will be solving with CivicRec,” said Muelken.
She adds that with CivicRec, the Apple Valley Parks and Recreation Department hopes to streamline its administration capabilities and improve the user experience when registering and paying for programs.
“We are hoping that the user-friendliness of CivicRec will encourage customers to do more online rather than stopping into our front desks to talk with staff,” said Muelken. “That will limit many contacts. We are also looking forward to using a card system for Open Play so that we can just scan that card rather than handling money or having to punch a card.”
For more information on how CivicRec can support your parks and recreation department's digital transformation process, click here to learn more about our cloud-based software.