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ABC 17 News Investigates

Jefferson City asking for almost $1.5 million in CARES Act funding from Cole County

Downtown Jefferson City
ABC17 News
Downtown Jefferson City

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)

Jefferson City is requesting nearly $1.5 million of the federal funds given to Cole County through the CARES Act.

According to 31 applications obtained through a sunshine request, $1,476,710 is being requested to help the city handle the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Cole County was given about $9 million dollars to distribute to cities, communities, businesses and organizations impacted by the crisis.

One application is for pandemic-related expenses incurred from March 1 through Aug. 5. That application totals $60,834.42 including costs from various city departments. The city attached reports showing where that money was spent.

An email from the director of finance of Jefferson City to Cole County says the city plans to send a separate application for expenses incurred from Aug. 6 to present.

The other 30 applications are for items the city wants to buy if the funding is approved by the Cole County Commission. In total, $1,415,875 is requested for city departments.

The Jefferson City Fire Department is seeking the most money, requesting a total of $590,045. The department is asking for more personal protective equipment, decontamination tools, along with other technology-related requests.

The Jefferson City Police Department is asking for $140,587 to buy 15 mobile radios to help communicate with other first responders during calls.

The city is also asking for $12,000 to buy thermal cameras to place in select city buildings to monitor the temperatures of members of the staff and public as they come in and out of the buildings. There are several other requests for glass barriers and other protective measures for staff and the public throughout various departments.

In addition, Jefferson City wants $85,500 to redesign city hall to address potential health and safety concerns. In the application, the city says there have been proposed design changes since 2008, but none have been implemented.

Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin said the city believes all of the requests are eligible for CARES Act Funding.

"The city has to function so that everything else can within the city," Tergin said. "Within the city we have to businesses, schools, and organizations that are really relying on our service, so we have to provide that service, which is why the CARES funding in so critically important."

For her, public safety is top of mind when thinking about the CARES Act requests. The city heard from all of the departments about what funds they may need to continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic in the city.

"Knowing that those funds would be available, we've been very active and engaged in that process to compile that list," Tergin said.

If items on Jefferson City's list do not get approved, the city would have to look for additional ways to fund the request, as the pandemic has put a strain on the city's budget.

"If some of them are not reimbursed or funded... then we would have to look at each of those and determine if we could find those funds," Tergin said. "That's exactly why we applied for those funds because we don't have those funds specifically set aside for those items.

Presiding Commissioner of Cole County Sam Bushman said the commission will look at the city's requests Thursday morning, after the outside accounting firm that was hired, BKD, looks over each application to ensure they are eligible for the federal dollars.

Bushman said they have to be careful about distributing the funds because the county will be audited by the federal government after the funds are distributed. If the funds are misused, the county has to make up those dollars.

The commission is currently in Phase Two of its CARES Act distribution. According to their website, $1 million is set aside for cities and communities in the county. Bushman said while Jefferson City will likely get the largest chunk of the funds for cities, they want to help out as many entities as they can.

"The whole idea of this CARES money is that we are helping the people of Cole County as best as we can," Bushman said.

The commission also wants to hold on to some of the federal dollars until later in the year in case of any COVID-19-related emergencies, according to Bushman. He doesn't know if all of the requests from the city will qualify for CARES Act funds.

"Even if something is turned down now, they can always reapply later," Bushman said.

Watch ABC17 News at 9 and 10 for the full investigative report.

Cole / Coronavirus / Jefferson City / News / Top Stories / Top Stories

Connor Hirsch

Connor Hirsch reports for the weekday night shows, as well as Sunday nights.

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