2020 CARES Act Grants - Supplemental State HAVA Funds

Published: May 01, 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) PandemicCritical Infrastructure ProtectionCybersecurityELECTION ASSISTANCE COMMISSIONElectionsGeneral Government ServicesGrantsInformation TechnologyPolicy and LegislationPresident TrumpProfessional Services

Election Assistance Commission to distribute supplemental appropriation funding for Help America Vote Act emergency funds to protect elections from the effects of coronavirus.

Originally Published: April 9, 2020

Updated: May 1, 2020

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), signed into law by President Trump on March 27, 2020, included $400 million in new Help America Vote Act (HAVA) emergency funds.  These funds are made available to states to allow them to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus and its’ impact on the 2020 federal election cycle.  The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has broken down the CARES funds by state and has provided resources for guidance on the use of the HAVA funds for expenses related to COVID-19.

The CARES award instruction noted that the funds will be available for immediate access and use and that states may expend the funds as of March 28, 2020. EAC does note that, under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, states must make a 20% match available within two years of receiving the funds. While the CARES Act did not address the two years allowed to make the match available, the activities for which the funds are authorized are limited to the 2020 federal elections.

EAC has released the funding request letters from a number of states on the 2020 CARES Act Grants page. Many of these are similar in nature of request and activities as they align with the EAC instructions for acceptable use of the funds. Primary topics include safeguarding polling locations and election volunteers and officials from the risk of coronavirus, further printing capabilities for mail-in voting, and promoting activities designed to minimize the collective risk such as early voting and increasing ballot drop box locations.  Some states anticipate needing to make significant technical upgrades as well, but more may follow as plans are made to adapt the election schedules to the reality of the pandemic.

Of the $400 million in federal funding made available to the states, four states led the way with over a 25% of the total emergency funds.  California, Texas, New York, and Florida each saw over $20 million in funds, with California taking the top spot of $36 million for about 9% of the total funding available. Seven states received between $10 and $20 million, an additional seven received the minimum state funds of $3 million, and the remaining 32 states and the District of Columbia all received an amount in between $3 and $10 million. Finally, the US territories each received $600,000 to utilize with no expected state match.

Allowable uses include, but are not limited to:

  • Printing of additional ballots and envelopes for potential higher levels of absentee or vote by mail processes
  • Registration List Activities to improve the accuracy and currency of registrant addresses
  • Upgrades of statewide or local databases to allow for online absentee or mail ballot requests or change of address
  • Additional mailing and postage costs, including ballot tracking software
  • Acquisition of additional voting equipment, including high speed or central count tabulators and hardware and software associated with signature comparison of returned absentee or mail ballots
  • Installation and security for absentee or mail drop-boxes
  • Temporary elections office staffing
  • Cleaning supplies and protective masks and equipment for staff and poll workers in early voting, vote center, or election day polling places
  • Overtime salary and benefit costs for elections staff and poll workers
  • Training of poll workers on sanitization procedures for in-person voting
  • Public communication of changes in registration, ballot request options, or voting procedures, including information on coronavirus precautions being implemented during the voting process
  • Mailings to inform the public on changes or determination of procedures of coronavirus precautions, options in voting, and other voting information
  • Pre- and post-election deep cleaning of polling places
  • Leasing of new polling places when existing sites must be closed
  • Additional laptops and mobile IT equipment
  • Additional automated letter opening equipment

Please see the EAC CARES Act Grants page or the attached excel file for the full breakdown of funds available for each state and the state funds request letters.