How Lawrence County has spent its 2020 Coronavirus Relief Fund allocation
Lawrence County received $4,499,807 in Coronavirus Relief Funds in 2020. It has spent the funds through:
Initial focus was on getting funds out to schools, other public entities and nonprofits as quickly as possible through grants. To be included, entities had to take the initiative to apply for the grants.
The county then moved to targeted spending for needs not addressed by other programs. Throughout the process, it also used direct spending for other needs, prioritizing those that would benefit as many Lawrence countians as possible.
Here’s how Lawrence County spent the money:
HEALTH DEPT’S PANDEMIC RESPONSE
The county’s small, dedicated health department has been Lawrence countians’ leading force in the pandemic, tackling challenges far beyond the scope of their size. When the avalanche of calls began, CARES funds were used to beef up the phone system there. In the months that followed, they were used to add and equip contact tracers, purchase supplies and sanitation equipment, and supplies to administer the pandemic programs, among other things.
The health department instituted a testing program in conjunction with school districts, using CARES money to fund COVID tests through the Ozarks Community Health System office in Mt. Vernon.
CARES Funds were distributed to every public school district in the county for a wide range of projects.County commissioners approved all grant applications in full, with only a few adjustments to meet criteria.
Schools used the funds to set up distance learning; provide food during the periods they were closed; and improve the facilities’ health environment to make it safer to hold in-person classes. At least one school district requested and received funds for telemedicine care for students and staff.
Public schools who applied were Aurora, Marionville, Miller, Mt. Vernon, Pierce City and Verona. Private schools who applied were Trinity Lutheran School and St. Mary’s Catholic School.
At the end of the year, the County Commission divided up an additional $200,000 among the public schools with the amount determined by the number of Lawrence County students in each district. Included were Ash Grove, Aurora, Miller, Marionville, Monett, Mt. Vernon, Pierce City, Sarcoxie and Verona.
CARES Funds were used to make it easier for the public to conduct business without potentially being exposed to the virus. The assessor’s office launched an online option for filing assessment forms; the collector’s office initiated a pay-by-phone system; the recorder’s office began a project to make records more accessible. Several offices set up systems to enable staff to continue working and providing services while quarantined. Cleaning, sanitation, fever-detecting, social distancing and other measures were taken to further protect visitors and staff. CARES funds were used for COVID tests, sanitation supplies and other needs at the jail. The sheriff’s office was able to purchase a transport van to enable it to isolate potentially COVID-positive prisoners during transport. Election safeguards were funded through a separate grant program.
PUBLIC SAFETY/PUBLIC HEALTH PERSONNEL
The U.S. Department of Treasury provided guidelines under which the county could be reimbursed for salaries for front-line workers in public safety and public health. The county has done so, ensuring adequate funding in those areas. That in turn relieves some of the financial pressure on other funds, which better positions the county for future challenges.
GRANTS TO NONPROFITS
Few nonprofits submitted applications for grants for pandemic-related costs. Those who did were granted funds they requested for personal protective equipment, sanitation and cleaning supplies, and other health-related spending. Grants were awarded to Emergency Services for Children, Children’s Smile Center, Mt. Vernon Community Garden, Mt. Vernon Community Betterment and Community Diaper Pantry. In addition, the City of Aurora applied for and was granted funds to donate toward a community food program.
ECONOMIC SUPPORT FOR NONPROFIT SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS
As the pandemic forced cancellation of fund-raisers and festivals that local nonprofit service organizations depended on to operate, the County Commission opted to do a narrowly targeted grant opportunity to address those needs. Nonprofits were invited to apply for that portion of lost fund-raiser revenue that they required to operate. All those applications that met the criteria were approved. They included:Marionville AppleFest, Mt. Vernon Chamber of Commerce (Apple Butter Makin’ Days), Freistatt Lions Club (Ernte-Fest), Pierce City Senior Center, St. Mary’s Catholic Church and St. Mary’s Catholic School.
CITY POLICE DEPARTMENTS/AMBULANCE DISTRICT
At the end of 2020, the County Commission divided $300,000 among cities with police departments to reimburse a portion of their payroll for front-line public safety employees. Amounts were determined by the number of patrol officers in each department. Funds were distributed to the Cities of Verona, Pierce City, Aurora/Marionville, Mt. Vernon and Monett (for its equivalent portion of Lawrence County).
The county invited ambulance districts to participate in the partial salary reimbursement and awarded $10,000 to the only district that responded, Barry-Lawrence Ambulance District.
Through the CARES Fund, all firefighters in the county should now have access to an extractor washer to clean their gear at the station rather than risk bringing contaminants into their own homes. The County Commission authorized the $8,600 pieces of equipment for each district in the county. Those included Aurora (2), Avilla, Freistatt, Halltown, Marionville, Miller City, Miller Rural, Mt. Vernon, Pierce City and Stotts City.
CITIES AND OTHER PUBLIC ENTITIES
Requesting and receiving grants for sanitation and cleaning supplies, PPE and other health-related costs were Barry-Lawrence Regional Library, Lawrence County Board for the Developmentally Disabled, Village of Freistatt, City of Aurora, City of Marionville, City of Mt. Vernon and City of Pierce City. CARES Funds paid for some court-related costs beyond sanitation and PPE, including fever-detection equipment and renting the MARC to provide more space for social distancing during jury selection. Lawrence County Nursing Home District received grants for a wide variety of needs associated with protecting residents and staff during the pandemic.
In light of the PPE shortage in the early stages of the pandemic, Lawrence County Emergency Management requested and received funds to create a local stockpile for the ongoing emergency.
All of Lawrence County’s spending could be considered PUBLIC HEALTH; but we have used the state auditing categories to break it down further:
Administrative expenses to date, $21,829.04
Budgeted personnel and services diverted to a substantially different use, $667.89
COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, $71,095.09
Economic support (of nonprofits), $68,284.40
Facilitating distance learning, $892,639.56
Food programs, $39,116.83
Improve telework capabilities of public employees, $33,747.93
Item not listed above (additional funds to schools based on number of Lawrence County children in each district), $199,999.97
Medical expenses, $56,754.62
Nursing home assistance, $226,848.39
Payroll for public health and safety/health, $449,842
Payroll for public health and safety/city police patrol, $300,000
Payroll for public health and safety/judicial fund, $191,797.48
Payroll for public health and safety/county patrol, $984,196.07
Personal protective equipment, $70,027.54
Public health expenses, $626,420.29
In December 2020, Congress agreed to an extension of the time period to spend these funds. Consequently, the county retained the remaining funds for unforeseen expenses related to the pandemic, as well as upcoming legal, CPA and auditing costs. January spending from the fund has been included in the figures above.
Lawrence County 2020 Financial Statement (see Coronavirus Relief Fund)
Background and details:
On March 27th, 2020, Congress passed, and President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”). The CARES Act established the Coronavirus Relief Fund and appropriated $150 billion to the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Under the CARES Act, the funds are to be used to make payments for specified uses based on the requirements of the CARES Act requirements and United States Department of Treasury guidance. Generally, the CARES Act provides that payments may only be used to cover costs that: (1) are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to COVID-19; (2) were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 for the government; and (3) were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020 and ends on December 30, 2020.
Expenditures must be used for actions taken to respond to the public health emergency. Funds may not be used to fill shortfalls in government revenue to cover expenditures that would not otherwise qualify under the CARES Act. Expenditures using CARES Act fund payments must be reasonably necessary. For further information, please refer to the latest guidance issued by Treasury.
On April 28, 2020, Lawrence County received information and guidance from the office of the Missouri State Treasurer regarding the distribution of CARES Act funds from the State of Missouri to Lawrence County. After approving and returning a certification for payment to the State of Missouri, on May 6 Lawrence County received $4,499,807.