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Document: Cole County CARES Act Funding Requests Approved Oct. 22, 2020

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A local nonprofit had its federal pandemic aid request approved Thursday by the Cole County Commission, as did Jefferson City government for some of its first responder payroll expenses this year.

The County Commission unanimously approved $834,040 of eligible costs out of a more than $9 million request from Jefferson City for Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds to cover payroll expenses of police, school resource officers, the Mustang Drug Task Force, 911 service and fire department March 8-Oct. 3.

The commission also approved on a 2-1 vote a $25,000 CARES Act funding request from Common Ground Community Building, an independent nonprofit in Jefferson City that offers solutions to issues surrounding homelessness.

Common Ground has been offering financial assistance for rent, utilities and bus passes through the pandemic, and the organization noted in its application for CARES Act funding: "We are receiving numerous applications for assistance every day from clients who have lost their jobs or who have lost hours due to COVID. We would like to increase our capacity to help those individuals in need."

Common Ground wrote many of its clients have had trouble paying bills because of the economic fallout of the pandemic, and "many people who are calling are asking for assistance for the first time in their lives. Helping them with rent and utilities helps keep them in their homes."

More information on applying for assistance through Common Ground is available at the organization's website, cgcb.org.

The organization previously received $30,386 from the Missouri Department of Economic Development's CARES Act Nonprofit Relief and Recovery Program — $386 for "cleaning supplies and a cough shield at our front desk," and the other $30,000 for direct financial assistance to clients.

The United Way of Central Missouri also in August gave $10,000 from its COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to Common Ground to help people with rent, utilities, prescriptions, state ID cards, birth certificates, bus passes and other basic needs.

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Cole County Western District Commissioner Kris Scheperle said he voted against the organization's request because he did not want to provide funding to people who have already collected unemployment: "I have a hard time swallowing that one," he said.

Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman said the funding may help people who have slipped between the cracks and haven't gotten needed assistance.

The commission did not yet take action on CARES Act reimbursement requests from Capital Region Medical Center and St. Mary's Hospital for COVID-19 testing expenses.

Combined eligible expenses requested by the two local hospitals add up to more than $1.3 million — more than $1 million of which is from CRMC.

The commission is still considering how much money to give and how to allocate it between the two hospitals, given that more may be needed later this year should the pandemic worsen and even more testing and other resources be needed.

As of Oct. 19, CRMC has performed 17,562 COVID-19 tests.

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As of Oct. 15, St. Mary's has performed 12,405 COVID-19 tests.

Eastern District Commissioner Jeff Hoelscher advocated for looking at how many people received tests who were sick, as opposed to people who have been tested per protocol ahead of surgeries — as well as looking at how many tests have been for Cole County residents.

Hoelscher made a motion to award a combined $500,000 of the hospitals' requests, but Scheperle took no action on the motion — meaning the request was neither denied nor approved and remains before the commission.

Hoelscher said there will be time before the end of the year to reimburse expenses, but in the meantime, "we have some money there if the crap hits the fan."

Bushman is abstaining from votes on the hospitals' request because he serves on CRMC's board of directors.

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