Thanks to the Federal CARES Act, Platte County received more than $12.2 million of our funds from the United States government. It appears the Platte County Commissioners have decided to dedicate virtually all our $12.2 million to giving grants to businesses.
While assistance to small businesses should be part of our overall recovery plan, what about the Platte County Health Department, the four school districts, the municipalities, and other public agencies in Platte County that we support with our local tax dollars?
Regardless of your perspective on the COVID-19 situation, it clearly has had a wide financial impact in Platte County, and we need a comprehensive approach instead of the narrowly focused one currently pursued by the commissioners.
The Platte County Commissioners should be obtaining information from the Platte County Health Department to determine what their needs are. They should also be communicating with the school districts in Platte County to identify added costs related to opening schools during the pandemic. Schools may be receiving some other grant funding (businesses did too) but will still have some costs that are above what was provided. And the commissioners should work with all the municipalities in the county to ascertain what additional expenses they have incurred that are eligible for reimbursement.
According to federal guidelines, the grant funds “may only be used to cover costs that are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019.” Those guidelines describe eligible expenses including medical expenses, public health expenses, payroll expenses for public safety, public health and similar employees, and expenses related to the provision of economic support. Examples of eligible expenses include acquisition and distribution of medical and protective supplies, costs of COVID-19 testing, and “costs to facilitate distance learning to enable school closings.” One of the examples is “expenditures related to the provision of grants to small businesses to reimburse the costs of business interruption caused by required closures”.
Other counties are providing grants to small businesses, too. What is unusual about Platte County’s program is there is no definition of small business, nor a limit on the amount of the grants. Other counties I researched generally limit the grants to under $10,000 to businesses with fewer than 50 employees. Platte County Commissioners are much more generous with our money when it comes to giving it to businesses. For example, on July 24, the commissioners approved a grant of $226,540 to one “small” business.
The health department, schools and municipalities incurred substantial additional expenditures that are eligible for reimbursement, but it appears the commissioners will give all the CARES funds to businesses instead. That means those additional costs will fall to local taxpayers like you and me to shoulder.
More commentary on the county grant program here
The list of the first 160 county grant applicants can be found here