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story.lead_photo.caption Kelli Jones, press secretary for the governor's office, works in the Missouri State Capitol. Photo by Mark Wilson / News Tribune.

When President Donald Trump signed the latest COVID-19 Emergency Relief Package into law that Congress passed earlier this month, one of the provisions in the bill was extending the date that Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds could be used on eligible costs by one year.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Monday approved a potential extension for sub-recipients of CARES Act funds, like counties, to incur eligible costs through June 30, the end of the state's fiscal year.

"In order to receive this extension, a county must have their spending data through Dec. 30 reported to the state by Jan. 31," Parson's spokeswoman, Kelli Jones, said. "The original timeline outlined in the certification statement signed earlier this year will apply for any county that is not up-to-date on their reporting by Jan. 31."

Missouri Association of Counties officials in a Tuesday letter to county commissioners said counties that receive an extension for the use of the funds will have until Sept. 1 to return the funds.

This latest COVID-19 relief package included no additional direct funding to counties.

The Cole County Commission on Tuesday approved CARES Act funds to pay salaries of workers at the Cole County Health Department and Cole County Emergency Medical Services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Commissioners approved $646,000 for salaries at the Health Department, as well as $900,000 for EMS salaries.

At the time of their vote Tuesday, Cole County commissioners said they had not heard from state officials regarding whether there would be an extension — although Jones said counties were notified of the extension Tuesday morning.

Officials with BKD, a Springfield accounting firm assisting Cole County in meeting its obligations under the CARES Act, had suggested the commission take action on the county's remaining funding before the original deadline, which was Wednesday.

Cole County Auditor Kristen Berhorst said the state's extension doesn't change the actions taken by the commission Tuesday. However, it could affect what the commission does with the county's remaining CARES Act money, which will be discussed at the commission's meeting next Tuesday.

One matter the Cole County Commission will consider is funding that had been approved for St. Mary's Hospital.

BKD officials said they had not received documentation from St. Mary's Hospital for $135,805 in allocated CARES funds. Depending on whether the commission allow the hospital more time to submit documentation, the county could have $566,679 or $702,484 remaining in CARES Act funds.

"The commission decided to put remaining unallocated CARES funds for health and public safety, and those could still be used for salaries in those areas; but with the state allowing the extension, the remaining funds could be used for other COVID-related expenses," Berhorst said.

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