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Rep. Mike Huval, R-Breaux Bridge, left, and Rep. Jerome Zeringue, R-Houma, right, listen to proceedings at their desks. The Louisiana Legislature convened for a short time to move bills on legal calendar and to introduce contingency measures for budget and capital outlay Tuesday March 31.

Local governments have applied for $165 million in federal coronavirus aid, exceeding the amount of money available under the first batch of funds as officials set up a program for small businesses.

In all, $117.5 million, or more than 76% of the first batch of funds, will go to Jefferson, Orleans and East Baton Rouge Parishes, according to the Division of Administration, assuming the expenses are approved. 

About $153 million was available in the first batch of funds for local governments. The total amount available to locals is $565 million, after Republican lawmakers and Edwards agreed to use $300 million initially slated for locals on small business grants. If a separate measure pushed by Democrats becomes law, $25 million will be taken from both the small business and local government pots.

Edwards’ administration has said repeatedly local governments would likely not be able to tap into the full $811 million. That’s because the funding can’t be used for lost revenue, only coronavirus-related expenses.

Still, the feds have given the state wide latitude in deciding what is a coronavirus-related expense, including in the category public safety payroll expenses.

That led to Sheriff's offices around the state applying for $28 million of the first round of funding, or about 18% of the total. That includes $8.7 million for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, about $6 million for the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office and $9.7 million for the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office.

While locals applied for more money than was available in the first batch, it is still not clear it’s a sign the demand will outpace or even reach the amount available. The first batch of funding was for expenses in March and April, the height of the coronavirus outbreak in the state. While DOA spokesman Jacques Berry said some locals may have missed the deadline, he said there are several more rounds of the disbursements.

The next round of applications open in July, Berry said.

Applications for the first round of funds were due June 15. It’s not clear exactly where much of the money is going, as the administration has not yet made the documents available. Some cities like Baton Rouge and New Orleans almost certainly will use the funds to offset police costs.

Email Sam Karlin at skarlin@theadvocate.com