As the fourth quarter of 2020 arrives, counties in the Springfield metropolitan statistical area are preparing to accelerate distribution of COVID-19 relief funds.
County officials in the MSA, which comprises Greene, Christian, Dallas, Polk and Webster counties, are confident the federal money dispersed through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act will be awarded to recipients before year’s end. The five counties in May were given a combined $55 million, and funds must be distributed and spent by Dec. 30. All remaining funds will be returned to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
“When the program first came out, we were concerned,” said Webster County Clerk Stan Whitehurst, of meeting the deadline upon receiving $4.6 million in CARES Act funds. “As time goes on, we’re becoming more comfortable that we’ll be able to make good use of the money and will have to send little, if any, back to Uncle Sam.”
Webster County distributed more than $1.6 million as of late September, with over $1.1 million going to local government entities, such as school districts and the Webster County Nursing Home District. The five school districts in the county – Fordland, Logan-Rogersville, Marshfield, Niangua and Seymour – have received nearly $900,000.
Greene County, which received $34.4 million, more than the other four counties in the MSA combined, approved over $24.1 million in funding applications as of Sept. 30. Roughly $5.2 million remain to be allocated for small businesses. Applicants for the small-business category had additional time to apply after the Greene County Commission extended the Aug. 10 deadline to Sept. 30. County officials previously said they are holding back a 10% contingency in relief funds for possible emergencies or other needs this fall.
Nearly $2.7 million has been granted by the Christian County Commission, said Todd Wiesehan, CARES Act committee member. The Christian County Sheriff’s Department is currently the top recipient at over $760,000, followed by nearly $427,000 for the county health department. The county received $10.4 million to distribute. “We also have nearly $500,000 of additional requests moving through the system currently,” he said.
Wiesehan, Christian County’s director of planning and development, said the county also would reserve an undetermined portion of the funds in order to be financially prepared to organize and deliver COVID-19 vaccinations to county residents when they become available.
Funding applications in Dallas and Polk counties are being facilitated by Paula Shepard, former executive director of Bolivar YMCA, said Dallas County Clerk Stephanie Hendricks.
Only $25,000 of Dallas County’s $1.9 million total had been distributed through September, Shepard said, with an additional $42,000 request yet to be approved for Citizens Memorial Health Care Foundation.
But Dallas County commissioners are reviewing a significantly larger second round of applications, Hendricks said.
“It’ll be substantially more money because we’ll have our schools and our health department that have requested in the second round,” she said. “It’s kind of a drawn out process. It’s important to have all your documentation.”
Hendricks said health care, education and nonprofits are the only categories for which the county is currently accepting applications. If a third round of funding is opened, small businesses might be included.
However, both Hendricks and Shepard said there’s no guarantee any money will remain after the second round.
“The commission and myself have been learning about the application process and what fits,” Shepard said. “Now that all of us understand more clearly how it works, I think it will go more quickly. The Dallas County commissioners have an interest in making sure the needs of their county are met. They’ll do everything they can and not have to repay.”
Of Polk County’s $3.7 million received, over $1.3 million has been distributed, she said. Citizens Memorial Hospital received roughly $625,000, followed by Bolivar Schools with over $487,000. However, businesses were not eligible for funds in the first two rounds and won’t be able to receive any moving forward, Shepard said.
“There will not be a round three,” Shepard said of Polk County. “They have qualified applications for their round two that exceeds the amount of funds that they have.”
Whitehurst said Webster County has had numerous nonprofit and local business applicants, combining for over $450,000 in approved CARES Act funds. Disbursements in those categories are capped at $7,500 each. Don Vance Ford Inc., Outlaw Gentleman LLC and The Sully Co. LLC were among Webster County business that received funds in mid-September, according to officials.
He expects a high volume for its second round of funding, which deadlines in mid-October.
“We’re going to take a little pause, let these applications come in and review them to distribute funds,” he said. “Then we’ll make an announcement about what round three will look like.”
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