Half of $12 million total would go to KC
Platte County could be getting a total of $12 million in federal relief funds to assist with recovery efforts involved with the COVID-19 pandemic, with $6 million of that going to City of Kansas City.
That was the message delivered by Ron Schieber, presiding commissioner for Platte County, to the Platte County Health Department Board of Trustees during a meeting held via telephone conference Tuesday night. Schieber said the figures came from a discussion he had with the state treasurer this week.
According to the tentative information spoken by Schieber, of the $12 million distributed to the county, $6 million would be passed through to the City of Kansas City, since Kansas City makes up about half the population of the county.
That would leave $6 million for the county available to spend on recovery efforts. Schieber said a focus would be “what do we do with that money to get people back to work and back on the streets?”
“Our families and are small businesses are hurting,” Schieber said.
As of now per order of the county health director, the county is under a stay at home order until May 15, an order that mimics Kansas City’s order. Gov. Mike Parson has ordered the stay at home in place throughout the state until May 3.
Mary Jo Vernon, health director, said she will be forming a task force with a purpose of transitioning to a reopening phase.
“At this time I am building a task force to begin to slowly phase in the reopening of the county,” she said.
It was mentioned the task force would likely include health representatives, representatives from government entities, representatives of the business community, school officials and representatives from churches. The task force could begin meeting as early as next week, she indicated at the end of Tuesday night’s meeting.
Schieber suggested the same task force assigned to deal with a plan for reopening could be the group to decide how to spend the $6 million.
“Let’s use it the right way to put people back to work and back on the streets,” Schieber said. “I would like input on what we could be doing to get our people out of their houses and back to work.”
Schieber said he has been told by state officials the money has to be spent before Dec. 31 “or it goes back.” Covered items would be COVID-19 recovery related expenses incurred from March 1 to recovery, he said.
Schieber said he isn’t sold on the idea of a “new normal,” saying he feels “we can get back to normal.”
Schieber said all the information as of now “is very unofficial” and the state treasurer told him something more concrete could be known in a week to 10 days.
“Working with the health department, with our cities, we can target and use this money to put our people back on the streets. I think we need to focus on that” Schieber said.
He called COVID-19 “maybe the most important issue that we’ll deal with the next few years.”
“Besides forming your task force to come up with the processes, this same task force is going to be made up of people who can help us determine how to spend that money. It’s $6 million–a lot of people are going to be grabbing for it, so let’s use it the right way. If we spend it right, we will lead the recovery effort,” Schieber remarked.
Dagmar Wood, first district county commissioner, during the telephone meeting asked Vernon if there is a chance that the May 15 ending date for the stay at home order could be “pulled back.” Wood said “mental health issues (caused by the stay at home) are impacting people.”
Vernon said a variety of factors would play a role in that decision.
“I have to do the right thing and be diligent in my job as health officer. I need to watch to make sure our counts stay low for that two week period. If our peak truly was on April 10, we need to watch and make sure our counts stay down, watch our hospitalization data,” the health director said.
If the numbers remain positive “I think it would be prudent to look at moving that date up,” Vernon remarked.
“What we don’t want to do is to release too early and have a huge spike in cases and a huge spike in hospitalizations and then have to lock back down for longer. It’s a tricky balancing act. We’ll keep our eyes and ears open to all of this. We want to make sure we get people back to work when it is safe,” she stated.