A one-week delay at the start of the application process for Greene County’s receipt of $34.4 million in COVID-19 relief funds won’t impact distribution of the money, officials say.
The delay was due to Greene County’s information systems team needing extra time to test the software and online application process before going live, said Lyle Foster, the county’s grants administrator for the federal funding. Nonprofits and community organizations were able to submit applications on the county website July 20-23, one week later than the originally scheduled period.
“We want that to be a confidential process for the organizations,” said Foster, who was hired in June to work for the county at a salary of up to $58,000 through year’s end. “They felt like in testing there were a couple of things that were not working as smoothly as wanted before going public.”
Salaried county staff worked extra hours over the weekend prior to applications going live July 20, Foster said. The process included filling out mock applications to test the system.
Foster said the county funding levels are divided into five categories, with a 10% contingency being held back to consider possible emergencies or other needs in the fall. Educational entities will share in $4.6 million; $5 million for nonprofits and community organizations; $6.5 million each for small businesses and taxpayer-supported entities; and $8 million for health care organizations. Applications will be accepted in five phases through Aug. 10.
“It’s not five equal parts because public health is a priority, so the funding does recognize that,” he said.
Greene County spokesperson Donna Barton said 48 applications from nonprofits were complete with 70 more in progress as of press time.
The $34.4 million in Greene County funding was part of $2.3 billion in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds the state received in April. The state passed along $521 million to county governments, and the deadline is Dec. 30 for counties to disperse the funds in the community before the money has to be returned to the federal government.
Funds may be used to cover COVID-19-related expenses of public hospitals, clinics, testing and emergency medical response, as well as communication of public health orders, acquisition and distribution of personal protective equipment, disinfection of public areas, the issuance of paid sick leave to public employees and payroll expenses for public employees who responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to federal guidance.
Foster said he has no concerns the delay in the application process will impact the fund distribution over the next few months.
“The money will be distributed before the end of the year,” he said. “We want to make sure we can get it out as quick as we can, but at the same time we want to make sure that when people do the application process it’s working in a way that makes sense and is user-friendly.”
One agency that’s already worked through the application process is Community Partnership of the Ozarks Inc.
The nonprofit, which tackles community issues, such as child abuse and neglect, education access, and poverty and health concerns, is seeking around $600,000 in COVID-19 relief funds, said President and CEO Janet Dankert.
“We’ll be requesting funding for the hotel shelter program, and that will be the biggest expense,” she said of emergency alternative shelters implemented in late March amid the pandemic.
Dankert said the stay-at-home order, occupancy limits and rising COVID-19 cases in the community, have impacted the organization’s homeless shelters over the past several months. Four hotels in Springfield now serve as temporary shelters and will continue in that role through the end of the year.
“We’ve got about 150 people in hotel rooms now,” she said. “We anticipate serving about 175 total through the end of December.”
CPO also is seeking additional relief funds for crisis intervention, Dankert said. Crisis calls for people needing assistance for services, such as rent and utilities, has increased 200% since March.
“Any nonprofit that’s applying is definitely in need and these funds are something that will help us sustain what we’re already doing because there’s been such an increase in need since the pandemic started,” she said.
South of Greene County, Taney County also is gathering applications for review of eligible entities for its $6.56 million in COVID-19 relief funds. Phase I funding is only for governmental entities and nonprofits. Applications were accepted July 15-24, said Jonas Arjes, Taney County Partnership executive director.
“We don’t know how much is going to be submitted,” he said July 21, adding no additional phases have been announced and all the money could be dispersed in Phase I. “We’ll learn a lot in this Phase I. As long as the money lasts, we’ll go to subsequent phases.”
Arjes, who also is serving as interim president and CEO of Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce & Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the chamber has an annual contract for service with the Taney County Commission. An eight-person committee will review applications to be sure they have the necessary corresponding documentation, but will make no recommendations, he said.
“Those applications will be approved or denied by the county commission,” he said. “We’ve committed to have them back to the commission for review by the third week of August.”
Christian County also has started the application process for its $10.4 million in COVID-19 relief funds, said CARES Act committee chair Todd Wiesehan. The committee has categorized applications for reimbursement of eligible expenditures already made as Phase I and ones for proposed expenditures to be made as Phase II. There is currently no submission deadline for either category, he said, adding 56 applications with an aggregate funding request of $6.6 million have been received as of press time.
In Greene County, Foster said a 30-member advisory council selected by the county commission would review the applications. The council will break into smaller groups to isolate the five categories and make recommendations to Greene County commissioners for final approval. Successful applicants will be contacted by email.
Foster said county staff is committed to expediting the process, which means not waiting until everyone applies to start reviewing applications. “One idea we’re looking at is somewhat of a rolling review,” he said. “So, after two categories of funding applications have been submitted, the subcommittees would meet and get those recommendations to the advisory council.”
Web Editor Geoff Pickle contributed.
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