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Columbia City Council to discuss CARES Act funding


Columbia city leaders are set to discuss CARES Act funding along with other topics during their work session starting at 9 a.m on Tuesday.

Watch the meeting live at 9 a.m. in the player below.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the city has spent a total of $7.98 million on COVID-19 expenditures.

The expenditures include $3.33 million on the city's transit department, $1.34 million on the health and human services department, and $1.05 million on the police department.

Other topics of discussion Tuesday include a strategic plan update, performance audit and compensation philosophy.

The meeting will be at Columbia City Hall.

The city of Columbia requested over $16 million in COVID reimbursement from the county. Public safety requested the highest amount on the list. $10.3 million was requested for public safety, $4.9 million was requested for the health department, over $1 million was requested for city employees COVID leave, $860,000 was requested for small business and hotel expense programs, and $160,000 was requested for PPE expenses.

“We haven’t been reimbursed yet, we’re in the process of signing those agreements. We have expended the dollars and have submitted about $16 million dollars worth of funding requests to the county of which I think we’ll receive about $6 and a half million back. Now, again some of that money has already been distributed to the public health department to hire contact tracers, case investigators. The rest will go to first responders for overtime pay and some of those issues related to the pandemic.”, said Mayor Treece.

The Boone County Commission will hold a meeting Tuesday evening to dole out the rest of it's CARES Act funding. Boone county has close to $1 million left in CARES Act money to give out. At the commission's last meeting the city of Columbia was awarded $3 million dollars to public safety employee expenses.

Multiple city departments have run into staffing issues. Many staff members have had to quarantine due to exposure of the virus. Over the course of the pandemic, many city employees have used all of their paid leave. Mayor Treece says he wants to use the CARES funding to help those employees who may have had to quarantine as a sacrifice to doing their job.

Treece said, “Well right now we’ve had about 150 incidents of police officers having to be off duty because of quarantine issues, about 60 firefighters, but it’s not just police and firefighters it’s our refuse collectors its our treatment plan operators. All of our front facing city employees, those essential workers that interface with the public are at risk of COVID and when they have been exposed to a positive case have to isolate for 10 to 14 days. A lot of those workers have exhausted their paid leave, their COVID leave and are now at risk to losing up to 33 percent of their pay if they are exposed again and have to take off work. That doesn’t seem fair to me. I think these essential workers need to have the assistance of some of this CARES Act funding, to make sure that they’re not at risk just because they’ve been exposed as apart of their job.”

The city's Solid Waste and Utility department is one facing hardship with staffing. In July, the department ended curbside recycle pick up due to staffing shortages. The city's recycle drop off sites have been seen overflowing almost weekly, since then. Steve Hunt, the city's Solid Waste Manager, said bins at recycle sites are emptied daily, but the department is still running into staffing issues due to quarantine.

Mayor Treece said, "I appreciate the public’s patience as we continue to be impacted by COVID 19. We have a number of refuse collectors that are off of work because  quarantine and COVID issues, and we all want to resume curbside recycling, but to do that we need all 17 full time employees and all 4 part time employees to be able to come to work without injury, without COVID 19."

In the City Council meeting, Mayor Treece said, "There needs to be an intensive short term push in January to meet the demands and expectations of the public when it comes to recycling."

Mayor Treece said in January they expect to have a plan on how to fix the recycling issue when the council meets again. Treece also believes the city will begin to start seeing money from CARES funding next month.

“I think the council will approve the city manager’s actions at our first meeting in January. I expect that those funds to start flowing after that. Keep in mind a lot of that money’s already been spent with our existing appropriations, so as we receive that we’ll be able to make some additional investments in those pandemic related needs that our community has.", said Mayor Treece.

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Zola Crowder


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