Franklin County Courthouse

After almost 14 months, Franklin County is nearing the end of awarding the $12.2 million it received as part of the 2020 federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) money it was allocated.

The money is intended to assist the police, fire and emergency agencies with personnel costs they faced as a result of COVID-19. 

One of the largest remaining awards came at the commission’s June 15 meeting, where just over $2 million was awarded to 21 law enforcement, fire and emergency management agencies in the county.

Another agreement, with the Beaufort-Leslie Fire Protection District for $4,651, was approved by commissioners at their meeting Wednesday, June 30.

The expenditures leave Franklin County with approximately $580,000 in remaining CARES funds, according to County Auditor Angela Gibson.

Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker said the county plans to use the majority of the remaining $580,000 to cover personnel costs. County officials estimate about 15 to 20 percent of county employee time was spent on coronavirus-related issues during the pandemic.

“That makes us eligible to take the funding and apply it, accordingly, to the county,” Brinker told The Missourian.

County employees will not receive the money directly, Gibson said. Federal guidance on CARES said a portion of payroll expenses can be used for work that was “substantially different” than what was approved in the 2020 budget.

“If the commission approves to utilize a portion of the remaining CARES funds for a percentage of payroll expenses, the general fund will be reimbursed, not employees directly,” she said.

No other CARES applications from outside county government are being considered, Gibson said.

Wednesday was the last day for counties across Missouri to incur costs on which they can spend 2020 CARES money, though they have until Sept. 1 to return any unspent money to the state, Mary Compton, communications director for the Missouri State Treasurer’s Office, wrote in an email.

It’s a “relief” to be nearing the end of the CARES funds, Brinker said.

“I’d like to state on the record that we did a pretty good job with the funds with what we were allowed to use them for,” he said.

Franklin County is hardly alone in having money left to spend from the CARES package, which was first awarded in May 2020. As of the beginning of June, 62 of Missouri’s 115 counties still had CARES funds left to spend, Compton wrote. Only one county had returned unspent money.

Initially, Franklin County was in position to join that group. Before President Joe Biden took office, the county planned to return millions in unspent CARES money. As of March 2021, Franklin County had around $5 million in unspent CARES money remaining.

But the commission changed its policy and said it will not send “one red cent” back. At the time, Brinker said the money was better spent locally than being sent back to the “current out-of-control federal government.”

The county will next focus on the $20.2 million it is receiving from the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, which commissioners also plan to spend. Brinker said they have received about “50 to 75 percent” of the guidance on what it can use that money for.

“Once we get the rest of the guidance, we’ll really be able to start honing in and decide how best to utilize those resources,” he said.

 

 

CARES money awarded by Franklin County to emergency agencies:

­— Washington Fire Protection District: $16,636

— Boles Fire Protection District: $152,377

— Union Fire Protection District: $107,722

— Pacific Fire Protection District: $104,840

— St. Clair Fire Protection District: $89,866

— Sullivan Fire Protection District: $55,203

— New Haven Ambulance District: $41,400

— Washington Area Ambulance District: $141,619

— Meramec Ambulance District: $191,042

— Gerald Ambulance District: $47,438

— Union Area Ambulance District: $116,560

— St. Clair Area Ambulance District: $102,634

— Missouri Baptist-Sullivan Ambulance: $145,159

— New Haven Police Department: $33,832

— Berger Police Department: $2,828

— Washington Police Department: $189,842

— Gerald Police Department: $14,475

— Union Police Department: $160,379

— St. Clair Police Department: $85,816

— Sullivan Police Department: $113,757

— Pacific Police Department: $109,310

— Beaufort-Leslie Fire Protection District: $4,651