County still working on how to spend CARES funds
Recent changes to how counties obtain CARES Act funding have failed so far to bring clarity to Putnam County’s plan for spending the $1.2 million in funds.
Things should begin clearing up soon, as three things are set to happen Monday that should set the process in motion.
The first is that a claim will be submitted for the remainder of Putnam County’s $1,224,693 in funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds allotted to Putnam County.
This claim results from localities recently being told that individual, small CARES claims did not need to be submitted to the state. Instead, the local governments were advised to submit the claims for emergency responder salaries that have already been paid during the pandemic.
Once the money is in hand, the localities will be able to spend the funds as they see fit.
At last count, Putnam County had submitted only claims for $25,915.26 in CARES claims, meaning Monday’s claim will be in excess of $1 million.
Secondly, the Putnam County Commissioners, during their regular meeting at 9 a.m. Monday, will consider a resolution to provide for public health and public safety payroll costs with CARES Act funds.
Thirdly, the commissioners and Putnam County Council will meet in special session at 3 p.m. Monday to go over a detailed list of the requested items by county departments, school corporations and fire departments.
According to a document Commissioner Rick Woodall provided to the council on Monday, the expenditures could include $486,000 for Putnam County EMS; $285,000 for fire departments; $25,000 for North Putnam, South Putnam and Area 30 schools; and $15,000 for other departments.
The list for Monday’s meeting will be longer and more detailed regarding the items requested.
One decision the council made Tuesday was to fund a request for Putnam County 911 from outside the CARES Act funds.
Director Dave Costin had requested $44,000 to purchase a system that will allow dispatchers who have either tested positive for COVID-19 or need to quarantine to do their jobs from their homes.
Utilizing a laptop computer and a VPN internet connection, Costin said the system is not perfect, but could keep him from being short a dispatcher at a critical time.
“I won’t say they’ll be 100 percent as a dispatcher, but they’ll be 80-90 percent effective, which is better than someone not being there,” Costin said.
Costin said he has had four employees have to miss work during the pandemic, three of whom were asymptomatic and would have been able to work with such a system.
He said his biggest worry is more than two of his employees having to miss at a time, a situation that would force him to operate with only one dispatcher at certain times.
“The last time I went down to one dispatcher, it was 10 years ago and we had someone sick, so I did it on a Sunday night, my low night,” Costin said. “We had a big structure fire. I never heard the end of it from the fire departments. You need at least two dispatchers for something like that.
“I’ve never gone less than two since then.”
With the fate of the CARES Act money still to be decided, the council approved the expenditure as an additional appropriation from the public safety local income tax.
Questions on other such matters, though, will have to wait until Monday’s joint meeting, with the council able to make final approval during its Tuesday, Nov. 17 meeting.