JEFFERSON CITY, Mo (KMIZ)
The Cole County Commission said it is in the preliminary decision-making phases for CARES Act funding, but hopes to have an application up by Sept. 1.
Cole County received $9 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act in May.
County officials said it hired accounting firm BKD to help with the major decisions that lie ahead.
"This is not something we've really ever done before. It's a lot of money to give out and you want to help as many people as you can," said Sam Bushman, Cole County's presiding commissioner.
Bushman said the county has only had two meetings with BKD so far, so a lot of questions still remain unanswered.
As for who gets the money first, Bushman said the county is looking into creating phases for the spending of that $9 million.
"Phase one would be the schools and some of our other bills that have already been incurred, PPE and things like that," he said. "Then go to the middle phase and who knows what the needs will be there."
The commission says it plans to keep a small reserve of money for the final phase in case of another outbreak or vaccine.
During a meeting Thursday the commission discussed having a minimum amount requested for each applicant, except for school districts.
"Schools are one of our first priorities," Bushman said during the meeting.
The group later agreed that there would be a $5,000 minimum for every applicant except schools. The maximum for every applicant would be $100,000.
"Two-hundred-fifty dollars to a little school means, probably, a lot more than $5,000 to a great big school," Eastern District Commissioner Jeff Hoelscher said during the session.
Lighthouse Preparatory Academy said there is a long list of needs the schools will need to fill due to COVID-19.
The schools is planning on buying equipment to make virtual learning easier on the students and teachers, along with other necessary equipment.
"Another goal would be to purchase PPE, the hand sanitizing stations, masks, and different things that we may need," said Karen Crawford, Light House Preparatory Academy's Administrator.
She said buying all that technology and protective gear can add up quickly.
"We could spend anywhere from $20-$25,000 on the technology and the PPE," Crawford said.
The Cole County Commission said that the CARES Act funds will be distributed in the form of reimbursements. So, anyone looking to benefit from the grant would have to spend the money first.
“Don’t wait for the money, go ahead and spend it and then we will reimburse you if it meets the criteria," Bushman said.
Crawford said that is a point of concern.
“That makes me nervous. The Cole County money would be more, probably, the PPE. But, yes it does make me nervous to spend the money if I’m not sure that I’m going to be reimbursed later," she said.