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State COVID-19 funding a boon to county
But, getting SPARK money a complicated process
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Opening the door to bring some much needed COVID-19 relief to Barton County, the County Commission Monday morning approved a resolution authorizing participating in Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas funding program. However, that was the easy part, with this being a complicated process having many pressing deadlines to meet, County Administrator Phil Hathcock said.

The State of Kansas Finance Council approved the SPARK Taskforce’s proposal to distribute $5,268,052 to Barton County to help address the health and economic challenges inflicted by COVID-19. The funding level was determined by Barton County’s population and impact from COVID-19.  

“The county is tasked to distribute them down through the cities, school districts and such,” Hathcock said. Funneled through the state, this federal funding is part of $400 million being distributed statewide in round-one Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) relief. 

The state requires that the commission pass this resolution in order to receive the funding, he said. But, “things are moving very fast in this realm,” he said. “We have very tight deadlines.”

The state expects the funding to be distributed July 13-15.

“We will be responsible for receiving all of the required documentation from the city and school districts, as well as for what we spend in the county to submit to the state,” Hathcock said. “There are several very fast time lines that we have to follow on that.”

County Counselor Patrick Hoffman has worked with similar funding in other counties. “None of us are very familiar with it because it’s such a new thing. We’re all just kind of swimming in it right now trying to figure out how to do it. There’s a lot of paperwork.”

“It is my understanding is that this is money that comes to the county and it is the county’s discretion how to allocate it,” Commissioner Jennifer Schartz said.

“Yes,” Hatchock said.

“And that allocation process is an application process basically from the cities of the school district?” said Commissioner Jim Daily.

“We’re still working on the guidelines on how to distribute funds at this point,” Hathcock said. “We’ll be talking with the commission more about that later.”

It won’t be much later because this is moving so quickly and there are several time targets that have to be followed and met, he said.

“We did have several meetings about this with other cities and interested parties, and we’ve started the ball rolling,” he said. “I’ve been in contact with the city managers, as well as county administrators across the state. We’re all kind of getting together and formulating how everybody’s going to approach this so we’re trying to be cohesive as far as the counties across the state.”

It was in mid-May that Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly announced the creation of the Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas Taskforce to serve as the Recovery Office team responsible for the statewide distribution of over $1 billion dollars in CARES Act funding. In early June, the SPARK Taskforce held its initial meeting and established a three-round distribution of the money.

Round One includes the distribution of $400 million in CARES Act funding across local Kansas county governments. 

“Kansas communities and businesses are hurting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Kelly said. “We must get these resources to Kansas counties as quickly as possible. To do that, we need an office infrastructure that’s prepared to administer these funds efficiently and effectively.”

The Kansas Association of Counties is working with the Governor’s Office of Recovery to assist counties in drafting plans and answering questions related to the qualifying expenditures. 

Each county must first pass a resolution affirming that they will allocate the funding consistent with the specifically mandated federal COVID-19 expenditure requirements and share and allocate funds to educational and municipal entities within their counties before receiving their designated funds. 

Kansas counties are guaranteed to receive approximately $194 for each county resident (this would have been $5,007,829 for Barton County). Counties will also receive additional Impact Fund dollars based on their COVID-19 case rates and unemployment rates (bringing Barton County’s total to the $5.2 million number). 

These Impact Funds help provide monetary support for those counties hit hardest by the virus, the KAC reported. 

Barton County Commission meeting at a glance

Here is a quick look at what the Barton County Commission did Monday morning:

• Barton County was awarded a $102,356 in a Federal Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding grant from the Kansas Governor’s Grant Program. This program provides funding to prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus. The Barton County project includes phones and video surveillance equipment for the Sheriff’s Office, Detention Facility, 20th Judicial District Juvenile Services and Community Corrections.

• Approved a resolution authorizing the county to take part in Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas funding for Barton County.

The State of Kansas Finance Council approved the Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) Taskforce’s proposal to distribute $5,268,052.00 to Barton County to help address the health and economic challenges inflicted by COVID-19. The funding level was determined by Barton County’s population and impact from COVID-19.  

Funds are to be used as reimbursement of COVID-19 related costs and as direct aid unless otherwise approved by the SPARK Taskforce, County Administrator Phil Hathcock said. “With the adoption of the proposed Resolution, Barton County can begin the process of safely, strategically, and proactively providing communities within the county the resources needed to both mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and invest in long-term economic recovery.”

• Approved the purchase of a mobile unit for community testing and emergency response by the Health Department. 

The purchase of a unit for testing, outreaches and emergency response has been a long-term goal of the county, County Administrator Phil Hathcock said. With more demands on the Health Department staff to provide community COVID testing, administrative staff researched purchase options.  

They settled on the purchase of a used 2018 Forest River Vengeance be purchased from Harper Camperland for $25,540.