Schieber says priority is ‘to get people safely back to work’
irst steps in Platte County’s planned acceptance of more than $12 million in federal relief funds to assist with COVID-19 recovery were taken this week.
The Platte County Commission approved a document entitled “federal funding certification,” in which the county requests direct payment from the state of Missouri from the allocation of funds to the state from the Coronavirus Relief Fund as created in the federal CARES Act.
In the document, Platte County’s proposed uses of the funds are only to cover those costs that:
A. Are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to COVID-19.
B. Were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 for Platte County.
C. Were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020 and ends on Dec. 30, 2020.
Money that is not expended on those necessary expenses during that time period and not expended on those necessary expenses before March 31, 2021 must be returned to the state on or before April 1, 2021.
A key component of the program is that any funds provided cannot be used as a revenue replacement for lower than expected tax or other revenue collections.
Also, the funds cannot be used for expenditures which a local government entity has received any other emergency COVID-19 supplemental funding (whether state, federal or private in nature) for that same expense.
The county may use the funds to make a grant to any other political subdivision within its jurisdiction. Such a grant shall be used solely for necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency of COVID-19.
Ron Schieber, presiding commissioner, said the initial document approved at Monday’s meeting “is just an agreement between state and county concerning receipt of hte funds,” which seems to be an indication that there will be more paperwork needing to be approved.
“The (state treasurer’s office) has been in contact with us trying to provide guidance,” Schieber said.
When Schieber first announced availability of the money last month when he spoke at a meeting of the Platte County Health Department, he mentioned that the state treasurer’s office had asked him if the county would be willing to give $6 million of the $12 million to the City of Kansas City. That amount is based on the fact that half of Platte County’s population resides within the city limits of Kansas City.
Platte County Commission has not yet publicly approved any document entitled a “memoranda of understanding” drafted by the office of Missouri State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick. That “memoranda of understanding” would commit the county to steering a portion of the aid to the City of Kansas City, the state treasurer’s office told the Kansas City Star last week.
The state treasurer’s office said last week that the treasurer’s office is giving the counties in the KC metro area, including Platte County, time to review the proposals.
Clay, Cass and Platte counties are reliant on the state for the funds, which would seem to give the state treasurer’s office more leverage. Jackson County already received its money direct from the federal government, and Jackson County and the City of Kansas City are in discussions about any amount to be given to Kansas City and the process for doing so.
“We are working with our legal counsel and community leaders to determine how best to use the $12 million, and how to get a good distribution channel out,” Schieber said at Monday’s commission meeting. “A priority will be getting people back to work and back on the job so this money can have the best impact on the county.”
Schieber said the priority should be “to get people safely back to work. The health impacts of COVID-19 are serious. Health impacts of people not being able to do their jobs and support their family is just as serious.”
Schieber remarked that the county “will be trying to partner with our municipalities.” He said the “business community has been severely impacted by this shutdown.”
Schieber referred to approval of the “federal funding certification” document on Monday as “just the first step.” He said the commission will need to pass a new ordinance “at some point, I don’t know exactly when, so that we can actually get this money into the community.”
David Park, a candidate for district two commissioner, asked if the county commission will be looking at using some of the money to relieve overcrowding in prosecutor’s office and also remodeling to make room for sheriff’s deputies, as well as protecting employees.
Schieber answered that the county commission is waiting on guidance as to whether that type of improvement is actually allowed with the CARES money. “That’s a longer term problem that just isn’t related to COVID.”
EXPENSES THUS FAR
Kevin Robinson, county auditor, on Monday said the county has documented about $42,000 in COVID-19 related expenses thus far, including about $24,000 in payroll related expenses. Some less costly COVID-related expenses thus far have included costs related to deep cleaning of the county buildings, some large screen televisions and carts for the court system, and some remodeling in the recorder’s office for a proper public access point.
In a budget amendment hearing, county officials established a new fund in which the grant money would be placed. “This does not constitute the availability of funds, this is in anticipation of relief grant being received,” Robinson said.
Robinson emphasized that “until these funds are received and until there is clear guidance and a legal opinion supporting the disbursement of funds, I will not certify and disbursement.”