$1 for 3 months
$1 for 3 months

Crawford County to receive millions in CARES Act funding

Jonathan Riley

Out of about $400 million being granted to Kansas through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Crawford County will be receiving $7.8 million, but how that money will — or can — be spent is not entirely clear, according to county officials.

“There’s a lot of rules with that, there’s a lot of paperwork, there’s a lot of administration,” Crawford County Counselor Jim Emerson said at Tuesday’s county commission meeting.

“The money should come in roughly around July 15,” he said. “It’s a mad dash to try to figure out how we get it spent, because if you don’t spend it, it goes back to the state to be reused in rounds two and rounds three.”

Eligible uses for the money include “necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the coronavirus disease” which were not accounted for in the county budget as of March 27 and were incurred between March and the end of the year.

Specific examples include hospital or clinic expenses, COVID-19 testing and quarantine, “payroll of employees substantially dedicated to COVID mitigation or response,” public telemedicine expenses, “technology improvements to facilitate distance learning,” small business grants, unemployment insurance, and “a government payroll support program,” Emerson said.

The money cannot be spent, he said, on expenses covered by insurance, “payroll or benefits for employees who are not substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to COVID,” legal settlements, “expenses reimbursed under any federal program,” donor reimbursements, “workforce bonuses other than hazard pay or overtime,” or severance pay.

The money can be used on eligible expenses for the county government itself, along with city governments and school districts within the county, Emerson said.

“We’re assuming that includes Pittsburg State University,” he said. “We’re not 100 percent sure on that yet but we will get guidance for that.”

The coronavirus relief funding “may not be used to directly account for a revenue shortfall, so you can’t plug it in if you have sales tax that’s lower, interest that’s lower, casino being closed for a couple of months, unfortunately they will not let us just directly pump that money into there,” Emerson said.

“There’s a lot of items that you can fund, but the time frame is short,” he said.

Emerson also said counties were being encouraged to hire outside firms or consultants to help them figure out how to spend the money.

Some entities, such as school districts that are in more than one county, may be able to apply for coronavirus funding awarded to both counties, as long as they don’t “double dip,” or in other words submit the same receipts to both counties, officials said at Tuesday’s meeting.

The county is also required to “consider and incorporate efforts to address disproportionate impacts on racial minorities,” Emerson said.

“If the inspector general determines that payments have been used for ineligible purposes they are treated as a debt owed to the treasury,” he said.

Following a motion by Commissioner Tom Moody and a second by Commissioner Jeremy Johnson, the county commission approved a resolution Tuesday to accept the funding and agree to the terms of how it can be spent.