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Yesterday, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission announced that states can use the federal funds made available under the Help America Vote Act to support the cost of response to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Here’s the agency’s release (key section in bold):
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) announced additional efforts to provide resources and coordination for election officials relating to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The EAC recommends regularly visiting state and local election websites for the most up to date election information. State and local election officials are the experts at managing elections in their states and communities, and the EAC is working with these officials to provide information to assist in making informed decisions that help them manage elections during this difficult time.
“Election officials are contingency planners and have been grappling with the tough choices regarding the safety of voters, election workers, and their staff since the threat of this virus emerged. We have immense respect for their leadership and the difficult decisions they are making,” EAC Chairman Ben Hovland said. “The EAC commissioners and the EAC staff are working to provide information and resources to election officials, coordinating with state and federal partners, and offering whatever support we can at the federal level to help state and local officials administer safe, secure, accessible and accurate elections.”
Online EAC Resources:EAC.gov/coronavirus
Last week, the EAC launched a page dedicated to information on coronavirus (COVID-19), contingency planning, and other online resources for election officials. As part of the EAC’s clearinghouse function, staff is collecting and posting resources from voting system vendors, state election offices, and federal agencies on coronavirus and contingency planning. These resources include vendor recommended cleaning guidelines for election technology, CDC guides on the virus, materials election offices have developed on coronavirus for staff and voters, and more. The EAC is planning to add and update materials as they become available.
Use of HAVA Funds for Disinfection
The EAC responded to inquiries from state grantees about using HAVA grant funding to pay for disinfecting wipes, masks and other cleaning supplies in the COVID-19 pandemic. The EAC considers these allowable costs purchased to protect the health and safety of poll workers, staff and voters during federal elections. The EAC did caution grantees to follow federal grant regulations or circulars to ensure the costs covered are reasonable and allocable. The costs can be allocated to the grants in the proportion to which they are related to the improvement of the administration of federal elections. So, if grantees buy wipes for general use in the office, the portion that can be allocated to the grant should be related to federal elections. The costs must also be reasonable.
HAVA security grants are available for states to improve the administration of elections for federal office, including to enhance technology and make election security improvements. $425 million in 2020 HAVA are currently being disbursed to state grantees, but states have been able to begin incurring expenses against the grants since January 16, 2020 when they received their 2020 HAVA Election Security Grants Award Packet. In 2018, $380 million in HAVA funds were disbursed to the states. For more information on the HAVA grants please visit EAC.gov/payments-and-grants/2020-hava-funds.
The agency’s announcement will undoubtedly be welcome news, especially in states which have yet to hold their federal primary elections. It doesn’t help with all costs associated with COVID-19 response, since there are also lots of non-federal elections during this cycle, but it’s a source of support at a time when state and local election officials nationwide are mobilizing to face a serious but shifting threat. Kudos to the EAC for making this policy clear … to everyone else – be well, stay safe and stay tuned!