Douglas County’s spending proposal for $24.9M in virus relief includes $2.7M for testing; leaders schedule extra meeting to discuss it

photo by: Meeting screenshot/Douglas County Commission

Douglas County Administrator Sarah Plinsky, top left, speaks to the County Commission about a proposed spending plan for $24.9 million of coronavirus relief funding during the commission's meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020.

The Douglas County Commission got its first look at how it could spend nearly $25 million of federal coronavirus aid, including $2.7 million for virus testing in the community, and county leaders are scheduling an extra meeting to give themselves more time to discuss the plan.

County Administrator Sarah Plinsky and county staff laid out the initial proposal of the plan for the funds, which is required before the county can spend the aid, during the commission’s meeting on Wednesday. Under the state guidelines, the commission needs to approve a spending plan by Aug. 15.

Plinsky said the coordinating team received requests totaling $50 million, more than double the $24.9 million available in the county’s allotment of first-round funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The county’s coordinating team that worked to craft the spending plan had to cut out many requests to fit within the available funding, she said.

“There are a number of extremely important and valid requests that have been placed before us that are not included for funding at this time,” Plinsky said. “I really wish we had $50 million to give out and we could do even more good than we are going to be able to do in the community.”

The full proposal was not immediately available to the public. Karrey Britt, a spokeswoman for the county, said staff planned to upload the plan to the county’s website Thursday morning.

However, some of the proposed funding discussed during the meeting includes about $2.7 million of spending for coronavirus testing by LMH Health. Russ Johnson, president and CEO of the hospital, said the funding would provide the ability to test about 1,000 people a day. But Johnson said the testing would likely not be available to anyone in the community who wants it. Instead, he said the hospital and Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health want to use the tests strategically, such as reserving them for vulnerable populations.

Later in the meeting, Commission Chair Patrick Kelly repeatedly expressed frustration over the short period of time that the commissioners had to consider the plan. He also noted that the commission, in its own budgeting process, doesn’t usually consider requests down to individual line items like it will in the CARES funding plan.

Additionally, Commissioner Nancy Thellman said she wasn’t sure whether the economic recovery portion of the plan was necessarily equitable between who received funding and who did not. Plinsky said that portion of the plan needs more review, adding that it was considered “with a knife, rather than a scalpel” because of the short amount of time to go over requests.

To allow for more time to consider the proposal, the commission chose to schedule a special meeting next week before the state’s deadline.

Along with its regularly scheduled meeting on Aug. 12 to discuss the proposed plan and possible revisions, the commissioners scheduled the special meeting for 8 a.m. Friday, Aug. 14, to discuss the proposal publicly and finalize the plan. That gives the commission more time to discuss the plan before the state’s Aug. 15 deadline.


• 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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