Last Wednesday, local government leaders from across the state joined together in an online discussion about the federal CARES Act funds. The discussion, hosted by Missouri Main Street Connection, called Mornings on Main, was lead by Presiding Commissioner Ed Douglas, Mayor Theresa Kelly and City Administrator Darin Chappell, due to the City of Chillicothe and Livingston County’s ability to come together, according to moderator Keith Winge. The webinar aimed to help counties and cities determine how to distribute CARES ACT funds that were distributed to Missouri counties at the beginning of the month.
Douglas said that since early March there have been calls at least weekly between various city and county officials, including Sherry Weldon, administrator of the Livingston County Health Department.
Livingston County received $1,786,431 of CARES ACTS funds when it came to the distribution of the funds, Douglas said a committee was formed to discuss where the most need was, and to ensure those groups and programs who qualified could get needed funds, as outlined in the CARES ACT. Cities and counties cannot use the money to fill in budget gaps due to the virus.
“One of the first things we did was form an oversight group that includes the three county commissioners, county clerk, mayor, city administrator and city clerk and head of the health department,” he said. Then we started to just look at the guidelines - trying to do what we can.”
The act states that any unused funds are to be returned at the end of the calendar year.
“The first thing we looked at was what we needed to do for supplies, testing and protective equipment,” Douglas said. On Tuesday the group approved funds for the health department’s needs.”
Chappell noted that at this point it is believed that less than $100,000 of the $1,786,431 will be given to the health department.
The group also thought it was vital to reach out to local businesses and offer them any support possible.
“By putting any support we can back into local businesses and allowing them to fully function again - it also [helps] the overall economy in the city and county,” Chappell said.
A sub-committee was formed to work with local government officials to see what could be done to help the community and specifically local businesses. The sub-group formed includes all five banks in the county, Main Street Chillicothe, the Chillicothe Area Chamber of Commerce and the Chillicothe Industrial Development Cooperation.
Douglas said early plans are to dedicate close to ⅓ of the money to businesses.
“How much each of those businesses gets will depend on the number of applicants,” he said. “Could be several thousands of dollars or more.”
Local businesses are asked to fill out and turn in the application to County Clerk Sherry Parks by June 5.
A separate oversight group has also been formed to discuss distance learning. These meetings include three area superintendents and local telephone companies.
A group including the YMCA Grand River Multipurpose Center, adult daycare facilities, house of prayer, Community Resource Center, the Ministerial Alliance and others was formed to discuss their needs in feeding the vulnerable population. Those groups were encouraged to, and have begun to write and turn in proposals for any funds they may need to continue their programs.
Nursing home officials have also been contacted to discuss any needs they may have for protective gear and cleaning items.
“We are also asking anyone in the community who thinks their groups are covered by a portion of the CARES ACT to reach out to us,” Mayor Kelly said.
Douglas noted the CARES ACT is very clear in that it cannot be used for budget shortfalls due to COVID-19, and also said it allows for many uses.
“This is uncharted territory and while we feel we are reaching out to everyone, there are several pages of potential qualifying groups, if there is a group we haven’t reached out to, they should reach out to us.”
Chappell noted that the city will be eligible to receive some funds to help compensate for additional staff that has been hired to complete work around the city that is typically done by prisoners from the Chillicothe Women’s Prison and we have not had access to that partnership has been put on hold and the city has had to pay for that labor now being done by someone else,” he said. “This is an unbudgeted expense, so it is eligible and taxpayers will not be further burdened by paying those expenses.”
There most likely also will be unbudgeted expenses the county has incurred from the pandemic.
Winge noted that some cities and counties across the state are noticing increased tensions as they try to disperse the funds.
“We have always had a good working relationship and have always felt that was important,” Kelly said.
“We formed this overall group and smaller groups to do it together versus just sending out the money to the municipalities, as a commission we wanted to make sure there was still that oversight to maker sure the funds were being used as best as they could,” Douglas said noting that there are 15,000 residents in Livingston County and 10,000 of those residents live in Chillicothe.
Under the CARES Act, Missouri received approximately $2.4 billion in federal funding, including nearly $173.5 million for St. Louis County and $122.7 million for Jackson County. According to a press release from the governor, 25% of the remaining state share will be distributed to Missouri counties based on population.
Livingston County received $1,786,431. Other area counties received the following amounts, based on population. Carroll County $1,018,220; Caldwell County $1,058,226; Chariton County, $871,218; Daviess County $971, 175; Grundy County $1,155,602; County $1,398,454; and Sullivan County $714,361.
Any funds that are not spent must be returned at the end of the calendar year.