County commission approves only 40 percent of health department’s request for CARES money
inally, the Platte County Commission has decided to pass some of the $12.2 million in federal coronavirus aid in its possession on to the Platte County Health Department.
But the amount of money requested isn’t anywhere near what the health department had sought in CARES dollars in its application submitted to the county commission.
On Monday morning as The Landmark was heading to press for this week’s issue, county commissioners approved a CARES grant award in the amount of $308,166 to the health department. The health department had sought a grant award in the amount of $741,743, so the department has been approved for only about 40% of its request to the county.
The $12.2 million in federal CARS dollars was distributed to the county commission last spring. County commissioners since that time have been using the dollars to primary offer grants to businesses who reported being affected by the government ordered shutdown of non-essential businesses in the early weeks of the pandemic.
Platte County Health Department was the only remaining health department in the Kansas City region not to receive any CARES dollars from its county commission. The commission’s refusal has been widely viewed to be a political decision, as the three county commissioners–Ron Schieber, Dagmar Wood and John Elliott– have openly criticized the health department’s actions on business restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In its grant application, the health department said it would use awarded funds to:
*Purchase tests and laboratory tests to provide free COVID-19 testing to Platte County residents.
*Hire testing nurses to administer COVID-19 tests to Platte County residents.
*Hire case investigators to investigate COVID-19 cases, identify contacts and complete state mandated reports.
*Hire contact tracers to notify contacts of positive cases and explain quarantine procedures.
*Purchase laptop or desktop computers and mobile phones (when applicable) for additional COVID staff hired.
*Pay portion of other staff involved in response to and education about SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19.
*Purchase personal protective equipment for staff.
The health department’s grant application explained that the Platte County CARES grant will cover the cost of COVID-19 testing and lab services from Aug. 15 through the end of 2020, along with testing expenses.
At a meeting last week, the Platte County Health Department Board of Trustees indicated it would no longer be offering free COVID-19 testing to the bulk of the public after the first of the year. It is not immediately known what, if any, impact this grant money would have on that decision.
At that trustee meeting, one of the trustees–Paula Willmarth–called the county commission’s reluctance to provide CARES dollars to the health department “Shameful. It’s totally ridiculous. I have no words to describe how I feel about what has happened to us here. It’s just shameful.”
In reviewing the health department’s grant application for $741,000, it appears county officials declined the health department’s request for $433,000 in payroll costs for existing health department staff whose duties had changed to assist with COVID-19 testing, tracing, investigating, etc.
CITY OF KANSAS CITY
AWARDED $1.1 MILLION
Also on Monday morning, county commissioners approved giving $1,140,738 to the City of Kansas City in response to the city’s grant request.
The relative small award to Kansas City comes despite the fact that Kansas City residents comprise 50 percent of Platte County’s population. When the state treasurer was distributing CARES dollars to the county back in the spring, Missouri State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick had asked the county to pass along $6 million of the $12.2 million to the City of Kansas City. Platte County commissioners refused that request.
In its grant application, Kansas City officials said it will use the money to “cover the city’s unbudgeted expenses related to COVID-19.” This includes a combination of expenses that are expected to exceed the city’s budget for the time period of March 1, 2020 to Dec. 30, 2020.
The city said funds will cover such costs as:
“New personnel hired by the Kansas City Health Department, increased fire department overtime, personal protective equipment, barriers/partitions for the workplace, cleaning costs for city facilities, communications materials for social distancing, technology for city personnel to provide remote services, sick leave costs mandated by the coronavirus relief act, administrative leave necessary for employees to adhere to shift modifications, stay at home orders, or other safety measures.”
Also, the city’s grant request said: “In addition to covering costs already incurred, some funding will be used to cover projected costs or new purchases before the end of the year.”