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Document: Cole County CARES Act Funding Requests Approved Nov. 24, 2020

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The Cole County Commission on Tuesday approved more than $243,000 in internal county government requests for federal COVID-19 pandemic aid, as well as some requests from nonprofit organizations. But, it waited to make further decisions until all potential requests have been submitted next week.

The deadline to make requests for Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding through Cole County is 11:59 p.m. Nov. 30 — the Monday after Thanksgiving and the last day of the month.

Before approvals of requests Tuesday, the commission had $3,447,869 of CARES Act funding remaining of a total of $9,003,720 received this year.

Of the remaining monies, $2,442,367 was unallocated and reserved for any remaining county needs — emergency medical services, health, the Cole County Sheriff's Department, courts, and other departments and community uses.

Public and private schools in the county had $300,000 left for their needs, and the same amount was also available for each of municipality and health care provider needs.

Of more than $100,000 remaining for requests of nonprofits and small businesses, the commission Tuesday approved $25,000 for The Salvation Army to provide assistance to people impacted by the pandemic and $2,946 to the Home Builders Association of Central Missouri for conference room equipment to host virtual training and meetings.

Story continues below meeting video.

The Salvation Army noted in its application its two grants from the United Way of Central Missouri totaling $25,000 to provide rent and utility assistance to families were disbursed at an average of $600-$800 per family "and were depleted at a rate of 12-15 cases per week, while we also gave them food from our food pantry. Our emergency services worker has a waiting list of additional families in need of rent and utility bill assistance, so we know these funds would show immediate benefit to these families and others trying to survive this crisis."

The commission also approved $243,362 for internal county needs — mostly for medical, public health and remote work needs.

More than $47,100 was approved to pay for a price difference in the cost of sending COVID-19 supply boxes to every home in the county. The boxes — which county officials previously estimated should start coming to households by the first week of December — will contain surgical masks, hand sanitizer and written information from the county and Jefferson City about health precautions.

The commission also approved more than $56,700 for video laryngoscopes used when intubating patients and more than $2,600 for an oxygen tank refiller — both requests from Cole County EMS.

"COVID-19 patients often require intubation when their condition is severe," according to the EMS request, and "intubation is more successful with video-capable laryngoscopes by the provider being able to visualize the cords without inducing additional trauma to the airway."

As for oxygen, Cole County EMS noted: "As the calls for COVID patients continue to rise, our usage will as well. This device allows us to keep the main oxygen tank in the ambulance and fill it without having to remove it, thus allowing the units to remain in service and not decrease unit availability."

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The Cole County Jail received more than $28,800 for four video visitation terminals that Cole County Sheriff John Wheeler said are for attorneys to visit with clients. The jail also received more than $4,800 to provide masks to prisoners.

Approved requests Tuesday for video-conferencing equipment, a phone system change and software for remote work of more than a dozen county entities together totaled more than $103,100 — including $4,721 for video-conferencing equipment for the commission's meeting room.

The Cole County Emergency Management Agency received $56,098 to allow for virtual meetings of first responders. "With consistent outbreaks occurring through our county offices, it has become a relevant and dire need to be able to meet outside of enclosed offices," according to the application.

Cole County Public Works also received $37,123 for software for remote work needs, noting in its application that "We recently experienced an outbreak of COVID-19 within our organization which affected approximately 25 people at one time," and that outbreak "severely limited our ability to maintain our roads and bridges in the event of a major emergency."

Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman said he would like to wait to approve more than $395,800 in eligible requests from public schools — most of it for outsourced tuition for online curriculum and the purchase of Google Chromebooks — until all applications for aid are in next week.

In all, the commission has received more than $25.7 million of requests for CARES Act aid, of which more than $7.4 million has been determined to be eligible for reimbursement.

The county has so far spent approximately $250,000 of its $285,000 contract with BKD, a Springfield accounting firm assisting the county in meeting its obligations under the CARES Act for purchases, a representative of the firm said Tuesday.

That leaves about 200 paid hours for the firm to do business with the county, which should be closed out by the end of January.

The commission on Tuesday also approved formal support of Gov. Mike Parson's statewide public health warning issued last week but took no further action on the guidance in the warning and advisory for counties such as Cole designated as in "extreme risk" to limit occupancy in businesses and limit the size of social gatherings until the number of new cases and test result positivity rate decreases to safer levels.

City and county leaders, along with Parson, have urged people to take precautions to curb the spread of coronavirus — which threatens to overwhelm hospitals — but have not wanted to issue public health mandates.

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