Federal coronavirus funding won’t be cash windfall; county must return money not spent by year’s end

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 5/13/20

HERMANN — Gasconade County government’s top official is looking to tamp down a myth that county government is enjoying a windfall of cash because of the coronavirus …

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Federal coronavirus funding won’t be cash windfall; county must return money not spent by year’s end

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HERMANN — Gasconade County government’s top official is looking to tamp down a myth that county government is enjoying a windfall of cash because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“What a lot of people don’t realize — because I’ve been stopped a couple times — we are  not rich with cash,” said Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel, R-Hermann, at Thursday’s County Commission session.

Holding its first-Thursday-of-the-month session in Owensville City Hall, members of the Commission agreed to have Meramec Regional Planning Commission staff administer the $1.7 million received by Gasconade County in the effort against the coronavirus. The money, which was passed to the county through the state, is part of the $2.2 trillion virus relief act adopted by the federal government several weeks ago.

Miskel Thursday rebutted a growing belief that the county’s financial footing has been shored up by the federal money. “That’s just not the case,” he said, noting that the one major expense the county had been hoping to cover with the funds — the salaries paid to Courthouse employees who have been assigned to week-long assignments to their homes on a rotating basis to lessen the chance of spreading the virus among the various departments — won’t be covered.

Indeed, because of the strict guidelines attached to the federal money regarding allowable expenses, most of the $1.7-million likely will have to be returned to the U.S. Treasury. Local governments have until the end of December to use the money for allowable expenses. However, in the case of Gasconade County there have been few expenses incurred in battling the virus. County Clerk Lesa Lietzow is hoping to use some of the federal money to purchase disinfectant supplies to prepare polling places for the June 2 General Municipal Elections. There also has been discussion about purchasing hand-sanitizer dispensing machines to be placed throughout the Courthouse.

Miskel said he will be in contact with agencies such as the Gasconade County Health Department and Hermann Area District Hospital  “to see what everybody is doing to be within the constraints” of the federal funding guidelines.

MRPC has offered to administer the federal dollars that have been received by all eight counties within the Meramec Region, Lietzow said. “I think it’s a great service,” she added.

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