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The Cole County Commission approved distributing federal COVID-19 relief funds to school districts and small businesses Tuesday.

The largest application approved Tuesday was for the Jefferson City School District, which made one large CARES Act funding request rather than asking for funds to pay for smaller items.

JC Schools' request was for $807,200, the maximum the district could have received under CARES Act guidelines.

The money will help the district pay a portion of the cost it has incurred for outsourced tuition for online curriculum provided to students who are distance learning during the pandemic.

The commission also approved an $18,416 request from the Cole R-1 School District in Russellville to help pay for 100 Chromebooks for middle school and high school students.

Story continues below meeting video.

Also approved by the commission Tuesday were applications for funds from five small businesses.

The names of the businesses were not given during the meeting. When the county began taking CARES Act applications online, completed applications began to be submitted straight to BKD, the Springfield accounting firm assisting the county in meeting its obligations under the CARES Act — meaning the county no longer sees who the applicant is prior to approval or denial.

Malzner said Tuesday that BKD was behind in processing applications approved by the commission, so as of Tuesday afternoon, she could not specify which specific businesses had been approved.

Three of the five businesses received the maximum amount the commission had set for individual applications from small businesses, at $5,000. The fourth business received $3,792, and the fifth received $1,034.

The money went to pay for costs such as rent and utilities during the first six weeks of the pandemic when businesses were shut down, personal protective equipment, as well as COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.

On a 2-1 vote, the commission also approved a proposal from a municipality in the county for $6,986 for office retrofits along with PPE plus cleaning supplies. The municipality was not named during the meeting, and county officials could not identify it Tuesday because BKD was behind in processing applications.

Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman and Eastern District Commissioner Jeff Hoelscher voted in favor, while Western District Commissioner Kris Scheperle voted against.

Scheperle said he thought the amount was excessive considering most businesses have put up as little as 2-by-4s with Plexiglas to protect their employees. Hoelscher said costs for putting in these retrofits can add up quickly and noted just putting up Plexiglas in some county offices has cost thousands of dollars.

In all, the commission approved $867,007 in CARES Act funding applications Tuesday. That leaves $6,636,618 in available CARES Act funds of the roughly $9 million the county received.

Commissioners denied a CARES Act funding application Tuesday from Compass Health, which had requested $100,000 to hold a two-day COVID-19 testing event, potentially offering 1,000 tests.

Cole County Health Department Director Kristi Campbell said they had received word from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services that it plans to do one-day testing events, which would be free to the public. Those testing events are tentatively scheduled for Oct. 27 and Nov. 10.

Commissioners nearly approved a $328,635 proposal from Community Health Center of Central Missouri for a 33-foot mobile trailer to be used for COVID-19 testing. The trailer would have four care rooms and one central area for staff, and it could be used in areas where an outbreak might occur as well as for immunization and vaccination clinics.

The commission decided to wait on a decision after learning it could take five to six months for the vehicle to get here. By CARES Act guidelines, the money would have to be spent by March 31.

The commission also held off on approving several items for Jefferson City, asking officials with BKD to work with the city to provide more details on its requests.

Among items commissioners would like more information on was a $110,000 request for 50 laptop computers for Jefferson City employees, which BKD said met CARES Act requirements. The city also requested $100,000 to modify the customer service areas in the lower portion of City Hall, including installation of protective glass.

Hoelscher said he would like city officials to prioritize its list to show, and Scheperle said he wants the city to make sure it requests money for needs not wants.

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