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Document: Cole County CARES Act Funding Requests Approved Oct. 27, 2020

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This article is free to all readers because it includes information important to public safety and health in our community.

The Cole County Commission on Tuesday approved federal COVID-19 relief funds for Capital Region Medical Center and St. Mary's Hospital to help pay for the costs the Jefferson City hospitals have incurred for COVID-19 testing.

Eastern District Commissioner Jeff Hoelscher made the motion to approve, and Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman seconded the motion.

Bushman had been abstaining from votes on matters involving CRMC because he was a member of the hospital's board of directors. However, he left the board Oct. 1, and after discussions with Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beteem and County Attorney Jill Lahue, Bushman said he could now vote on CRMC-related matters before the commission.

Western District Commissioner Kris Scheperle abstained from the vote Tuesday, calling Bushman's action "highly unethical."

"You've been involved in the discussions about these matters all along, and I just think that's not right," Scheperle told Bushman during the commission's meeting Tuesday. "I think it's an ethics violation."

Last week, Hoelscher said he wanted to immediately give the hospitals a third of the total the commission had set aside in CARES Act money for health care providers in this round of funding. One-third of the earmarked $1.5 million is $500,000.

Cole County is in its third phase of distributing CARES Act funds, which will end after this month.

Story continues below meeting video.

Officials with BKD, the Springfield accounting firm assisting the county in meeting its obligations under the CARES Act, determined each hospital's distribution of the $500,000 based on the percentage of the county's COVID-19 tests they had completed through the end of August.

CRMC completed 58.6 percent of the tests, and St. Mary's completed 41.4 percent.

The commission approved $293,000 for CRMC to help pay for COVID-19 lab testing, medical supplies, and mobile test site employees' payroll and benefits.

The commission approved $207,000 for St. Mary's Hospital to pay for COVID-19 testing kits, testing supplies, testing tents and workstations at the hospital testing site.

BKD had said CRMC could qualify for as much as $1,085,452 in CARES Act funds and St. Mary's up to $319,892. County Auditor Kristen Berhorst said the hospitals could return to the commission to request more funds to cover remaining costs.

The commission also unanimously approved two internal county government CARES Act funding requests. One was for $1,513 for additional costs to retrofit workstations in the Recorder of Deeds Office, and the second was for $649 for a refrigerator at the Cole County Sheriff's Department to store testing kits to be administered to staff and county jail inmates.

Before Tuesday's meeting, Cole County had $5,606,142 remaining in CARES Act funds to distribute out of the just more than $9 million it initially received from the federal government in the spring.

With the $502,162 approved Tuesday, Cole County has $5,103,980 remaining in CARES Act funds.

Commissioners have said they want to ensure there is plenty of CARES Act money available should testing need to be expanded in November and December if the pandemic worsens.

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