Governments cautiously using CARES funding


Communities are using CARES funding to help cover costs incurred due to COVID-19. But they are being careful about how they spend the money.

“We don’t want to spend the money just because we can,” Ferdinand Clerk-Treasurer Tammy Miller said. “It needs to be responsible purchases.”

The federal government has allocated CARES Act funding to different agencies. The money must be spent first, and then is reimbursed. But the purchases must qualify for funding, must be submitted as a reimbursement request and, as of now, must be used by the end of the year.

Ferdinand has been allocated $72,000, and has spent $15,000 of that. The town hired a professional cleaner to sanitize the town parks, Miller said. It has also purchased a subscription to Zoom to hold meetings, signage that encourages social distancing and personal protective equipment, or PPE.

Dubois County has been allocated $1.38 million, and has used $121,000 for PPE like masks, thermometers, hand sanitizer, bleach, wipes and gloves. Some has also been used for overtime costs accrued by personnel who had to work to deal with the pandemic.

County officials have been looking at other requests that could use CARES funding. The Dubois County Commissioners were supportive of purchasing two no-touch body scanners, one for the sheriff’s office and one for community corrections. They also agreed that the Emergency Management Agency needs a bigger vehicle that can pull 70,000 pounds; that way, it can pull a trailer and carry the PPE that needs to be picked up and distributed. Other purchases that the commissioners were favorable to were no-touch doors for the courthouse, a swinging door at the recorder’s office, water filler stations, sanitizing equipment for the courthouse and health department, and renovations, like installing plexiglass, at different offices.

But they agreed that purchases should be separated into two tiers to make sure that the most urgent purchases be made first and other purchases be made if funding is still available.

“We must make sure that we don’t run out of money for Tier 1 things,” Commissioners Elmer Brames said at a recent commissioners meeting.

The City of Huntingburg has been allocated $198,600. Of that, $15,600 has been filled.

Along with PPE, signs have been installed at the city parks, sanitizing sprayers and foggers have been bought to sanitize rooms, playground equipment and surfaces, Safety Director Travis Gentry said. As part of the PPE, employees have individual bottles of hand sanitizer to carry with them; 200 2-ounce bottles have been bought, he said, and oversized bottles are available to refill them.

“We’re doing more logistical things for employees and facilities,” Mayor Denny Spinner said. “There are certain items that we know we need to purchase to do the essentials. But there may be enough funds there that we want to do something more significant than just covering the essentials.”

City officials are considering purchasing a no-touch kiosk for the utility office; people would be able to use it to pay utility bills. Help for small businesses is also being considered. But those ideas are only being explored at the moment.

“Getting a handle on that and understanding how much we have in the budget to explore those options is what we’re determining,” Spinner said.

The City of Jasper has $505,084 allocated. It has used about $35,000, Mayor Dean Vonderheide said.

“We have plans to utilize it in ways that would be advantageous for the community and for the business environment,” he said. “But nothing is set yet.”

Under consideration are updated radios for the fire and police departments, “because emergency response is a big factor in this,” Vonderheide said.

Updates at City Hall and department offices are also under consideration. In some, protective barriers are not in place.

“How do you protect the employees? We have to do things a little differently,” Vonderheide said. “The furniture in there is 25, 26 years old. It needs to be antibacterial fabric. We need surfaces that are easily wiped down. So we’re looking at that as well.”

Other allocations were $20,244 for Holland and $13,561 for Birdseye.

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