More than $2M in COVID-19 aid puts Routt County budget in good place
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County received more than $2 million in COVID-19-related aid in 2020, and more money could soon be on the way.
“Overall, I think we are in pretty good shape financially with this whole COVID-19 thing,” said Dan Strnad, finance director of the county. “We have options; we have funding sources.”
The relief package Congress is currently working on and hopes to pass before mid-March, when the current relief law expires, could send up to $5 million more in aid to various entities in the county. While the county is doing well in part because of last year’s aid, Strnad said it is too early to know whether the county needs the financial help, but they certainly won’t turn it away.
The bulk of the COVID-19 funding the county received came from the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which passed in late March 2020. It also received grants from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to bolster the county’s public health capabilities.
In all, the county received $1.8 million in CARES Act funding last year. According to Strnad, the county first received about $1.2 million in federal relief but applied for more from the reserve fund, which was state money that had not been spent. That yielded the county another $476,000.
The $1.8 million in total funding also includes $140,000 from the city of Steamboat Springs and $20,000 from the town of Yampa to be used toward the county’s business and nonprofit relief grant program. While there are still a few recipients that have not collected their money yet, $946,000 of CARES Act funding was used to fund those local relief grants.
CARES Act: $1,845,675
• $946,000 to local business and nonprofit grants
• $176,461 to budgeted personnel costs
• $381,258 to unbudgeted operations costs
• $341,955 for additional personnel and operations costs, which the county has spent but not reimbursed yet.
CDPHE grants: $310,000 — Used for public health personnel
• $35,814‚ Frontier Grant for contact tracers
• $50,000, Protect Our Neighbors Grant
• $87,371.16, Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity Grants
The rest of that money was spent on some budgeted personnel costs and unbudgeted operations cost.
The county also received about $310,000 in grants from CDPHE to pay for public health workers, such as contact tracers, epidemiologists and administrative staff. These grants covered the cost for hiring Roberta Smith, the public health director, as well as additional costs that were not budgeted.
A large portion of that was Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that flowed to the county through the state health department. This grant is actually worth about $437,000, but it is paid out over 30 months, sending the county about $14,500 a month.
In 2020, the county collected this grant for six months, and it is planned to continue until December 2022, but the county does have some flexibility in when it spends that money, allowing it to use more of it now rather than waiting until the end of next year.
Strnad said there are several smaller grants that also have come through CDPHE to help pay for public health personnel.
For vaccinations, the county can get all expenses reimbursed from the Federal Emergency Management Agency until Sept. 30. After that, the county can apply for 75% reimbursement.
“Right now, we’re doing fine,” Strnad said.
Strnad said he is hearing that the county as a whole could get as much as $5 million from the relief bill currently working its way through Congress. Not all of that would go to the county though, as municipalities and school districts will also get a piece of the funding.
But with the county already in good financial position, does it need the additional aid?
“We don’t know yet,” Strnad said. “So far, we have been really blessed, lucky, however you want to call it, that we have had the circumstances we’ve had.”
Commissioner Tim Corrigan said it is still really unclear what kinds of strings would be attached to money the county could get from the proposed bill or even how much that will end up being.
“The intent of that legislation is to assist those local governments that have had their finances negatively impacted by COVID-19,” Corrigan said.
Routt County did not see the dramatic hit to revenue they expected earlier in the year. Sales tax collected exceeded the budgeted figures for 2020 by more than 10%, beating last year’s total by more than 3%.
As to whether the county needs the aid, Corrigan said they certainly were not going to turn it away.
“If they send us the money, we will take it,” he said. “If we could get some extra money, it would be a huge help, especially if we could use some of that money for our health and human services building.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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