Douglas County Commission to get first look at proposed spending for nearly $25 million of CARES funding

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World File Photo

The Douglas County Courthouse is pictured in September 2018.

Douglas County will soon get its first look at how it could spend nearly $25 million of federal coronavirus aid.

The County Commission on Wednesday will review a plan for its allotment of round-one funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as CARES. Under the law, the county will receive $24.9 million to use for reimbursement and direct aid related to issues from the coronavirus pandemic. To spend the funding, the commission must approve a plan on how it will use the funds by Aug. 15.

Previously, the county put together a coordinating team — consisting of local leaders representing education, housing, medical services, the local economy and other areas affected by the pandemic — to develop the plan. County Administrator Sarah Plinsky said in a memo to the commissioners that the coordinating team was meeting on Tuesday to review the proposed plan before forwarding it to the County Commission.

The plan was not included in the memo. Last week, Plinsky told the commissioners the plan would not be ready for review until the Wednesday meeting. She said at the time the coordinating team would be receiving funding requests until Monday and county staff would then prepare a proposal for the coordinating team to consider and revise on Tuesday. The commission would then be able to review the proposal during its meeting on Wednesday, with plans to revise and finalize it during the Aug. 12 meeting.

The first round of relief funding can be used in two ways: reimbursing local organizations for costs that they incurred during the pandemic between March and July, and providing direct aid to help organizations deal with the pandemic through the end of the year.

Plinsky previously told the Journal-World there was no set figure for how much of the $24.9 million would go to reimbursements versus direct aid, but she said the reimbursements were the team’s priority. Whatever is left of the funding after dealing with the reimbursements will go to the direct aid plan, she said.

If the county plan does not spend all $24.9 million, the unspent funds would be sent back to the state, which would consider redistributing them later. But Plinsky said the county planned to spend all $24.9 million.

As part of the Wednesday meeting, Plinsky said she would also provide the commissioners with an update on the second round of CARES funding.

The second round of funding, which will be distributed by the state task force called Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas, or SPARK, is expected to be about $254 million for the state. Plinsky said the second round has been “opened up” to a larger spectrum of possible spending for coronavirus relief, such as providing funding to education and mental health services.

“There’s a lot more potentially coming down the pike for funding than we initially thought might be available to a wider group of folks,” Plinsky said last week. “I think that’s important for framing your decision making on the round-one funds.”

The County Commission will meet Wednesday through an online video conference at 5:30 p.m. for the regular business meeting. The meetings will be open to the walk-in public at the county courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St., but a link for the public to watch live online is available on the county’s website, Residents may also call in and listen by phone by dialing 1-312-626-6799 and entering meeting ID 998-3433-9528.

Full audio from the meeting will continue to be posted on the county’s website, as usual. The meeting’s full agenda may also be found on the county’s website.

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

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