The Douglas County Commission approved a policy at Wednesday’s meeting that sets aside roughly $2.4 million of the county’s received American Rescue Plan Act funding for emergency purchases.
Out of a total of $23.8 million, this amounts to 10% of Douglas County’s federal funding meant to mitigate the community’s challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finance Coordinator Brooke Sauer said qualifying expenditures under the policy are specific to health and medical response or human services, and they do not apply to other financial needs such as employee premium pay or revenue loss.
County Administrator Sarah Plinsky will be able to approve expenditures amounting up to $250,000. Any higher costs under the policy would require commission approval and would be subject to a formal bidding process.
Plinsky said the county has already been approached by Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health and LMH Health about costs for necessary items to respond to COVID-19, and the commission will receive regular updates at least once a month about where those funds are going. Though she aims to keep the policy “very narrow and very conservative” in how it is applied, she noted that this policy is just one part of the long-term plan for the county’s ARPA allocation and what needs it addresses.
“By no means should the public interpret that this is the only amount directed for this emergency service,” Plinsky said. “This is just to get us started and to allow us to move through that process while we go through a more deliberate sustainable process for how we want to spend the rest of the funds.”
Commission Vice Chair Shannon Reid said she would appreciate regular updates both for the commission and for the public to know the status of those funds going forward. Commission Chair Shannon Portillo said she remains excited that the process around the county’s federal funding gives commissioners the ability to think both quickly and strategically about financially addressing the community’s immediate emergencies and long-term needs.
“I’m glad that we are continuing to learn from the great process that you went through with the last commission through the CARES Act,” she told Plinsky. “And that we’ll have the vast majority of the funding to really think long-term and strategically in our community, but we’ll be able to be quick with some of those emergency needs that we know are out there right now.”
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