A look at the spending Douglas County proposes for $24.9 million in CARES funding

photo by: Jackson Barton

The Douglas County Courthouse and downtown Lawrence are pictured in an aerial photo Saturday, July 13, 2019.

Covering health and medical expenses caused by the coronavirus pandemic accounts for a large portion of a proposed spending plan for Douglas County’s nearly $25 million of federal aid.

Almost half of the $24.9 million of funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as CARES, provided to the county is proposed to be used to cover costs for medical and public health expenses at community health organizations, according to a proposed funding document Douglas County provided to the Journal-World on Thursday.

The document shows where and in what amount the county’s coordinating team proposed the funding should be used. A full breakdown of the spending is available on the county’s website.

The commissioners got their first look at the spending plan during their meeting on Wednesday and will have two more meetings to consider revisions and then final approval. Along with their regularly scheduled meeting on Aug. 12, the commissioners scheduled the special meeting for 8 a.m. Friday, Aug. 14.

Here’s a brief look at the proposed spending outlined in the document given to the Journal-World Thursday:

Reimbursements: $1.9 million

The reimbursement portion of CARES funding is meant to cover costs local organizations incurred between March and July in response to the pandemic. The proposed reimbursement funding would go to covering the many pandemic-related purchases that local governments, school districts, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health and LMH Health made during that period.

Under the proposal, the funding covers a litany of costs for personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies and improvements to technology for socially distanced work, among other purchases. Of the reimbursement funds, the organizations receiving the largest amounts in the proposal are LMH Health, about $760,000, and the health department, about $460,000.

Direct aid to municipalities: $4.1 million

The direct aid to local governments provides more funding for public health expenses and improvements to work capabilities, as well as economic recovery support. In the proposal, Douglas County and the cities of Lawrence, Eudora and Baldwin City would receive funding.

One of the largest economic support costs would be $500,000 in aid for a utility billing assistance program in Lawrence. The proposal says the funding would be used as subsidy funding for utility account holders with economic hardships from the pandemic.

Baldwin City requested and would receive the lowest amount, only $13,500, which would be used for cleaning supplies and a handful of laptop computers and internet hotspot devices. Meanwhile, Eudora would receive about $792,000 for several expenses.

Health and medical: $11.3 million

The health and medical section is the largest spending in the plan, covering future spending for community organizations to help address issues caused by the pandemic.

Much of the proposed funding in this section is awarded to the health department and LMH Health, including the $2.7 million planned for increased testing and contract tracing that the organizations discussed during the County Commission’s meeting on Wednesday.

But other community organizations that often partner with the county government would receive funding too, such as Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, Heartland Community Health Center, DCCCA and others.

The spending is largely listed as medical expenses and public health expenses. But some of it is for smaller amounts of economic support, such as a $11,000 request from Heartland for funding to help cover loss of revenue during the pandemic associated with a decrease in “encounters” at the health center.

Housing and human services: $2.5 million

Other local community organizations would receive economic support through the housing and human services portion of the funding, about $1.2 million of the proposed funding. Some of the costs include providing $850,000 to Tenants to Homeowners and Family Promise of Lawrence. The funding would help cover direct rental assistance to residents who have lost income during the pandemic.

Other costs include $590,000 for social and family support services, such as the $45,000 to the Ballard Center, which provides affordable child care to the community and food and clothing through the organization’s pantry.

Education: $3.8 million

Education funding, which would be provided for local school districts, universities and private schools, is proposed to cover reopening measures for the educational institutions and many public health expenses. The proposal slates $987,000 for reopening measures and $955,000 for public health measures. Other proposed costs include funding for distance learning, economic support and social and family support services.

Under the proposal, the University of Kansas would receive a large portion of the funding, about $1.2 million. According to the university’s application, funding would be used for many needs to continue education, such as new technology for remote and hybrid learning and protective equipment for social-distancing measures in classrooms, common areas and other locations on campus.

The Lawrence school district would receive a little more than $1 million, the Eudora school district would receive about $215,000, and the Baldwin City school district would receive about $125,000.

Economic recovery: $1.2 million

Economic recovery funding was some of the most requested — and the least granted. The proposal notes it had received requests worth $11.1 million. However, only $1.2 million is proposed for spending, $400,000 of which would be awarded to The Dwayne Peaslee Technical Training Center for its Raise Income Security and Equity program that offers no-cost job training for people who have lost their jobs during the pandemic.

Related coverage:

• July 18, 2020 — Douglas County puts team together to decide how to spend nearly $25 million of CARES funding; plans must be finalized by Aug. 15

• Aug. 5, 2020 — Douglas County’s spending proposal for $24.9M in virus relief includes $2.7M for testing; leaders schedule extra meeting to discuss it

Contact Dylan Lysen

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