Routt County gets $2.2M in relief funding, extends disaster declaration amid COVID-19 pandemic
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County and its municipalities have signed an agreement to allocate a $2.2 million stimulus package from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund.
The money is one of the latest provisions of the CARES Act, which the federal government established to supplement relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in response to the financial impact of the pandemic.
In a statement the Routt County Board of Commissioners said the $2.2 million stimulus package is meant to improve public health and to support the local economy. Under an agreement, the county will receive 55%, or about $1.2 million, of the funds and its municipalities — Steamboat Springs, Hayden, Oak Creek and Yampa — will split the remaining 45% based upon their populations.
A number of other counties have used a similar methodology to distribute their CARES Act funding, according to Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan. He said negotiations about the allocation have been amicable between the county and municipalities.
Steamboat, with a population of 13,214 people according to the latest U.S. Census data, will get $787,093.87. Hayden’s population of 1,979 will receive $117,879.43. Oak Creek, with a population 959 people, gets $57,122.98. Yampa, population 464, will receive $27,638.22 for COVID-19 related expenses.
The county’s highest priority for its portion of the funding is to expand the Routt County Public Health Department, according to Commissioner Beth Melton.
“The scale of this (pandemic) is so big, and we really do need to make sure that public health has adequate staff support to be able to do everything that’s necessary to be able to keep things headed in the right direction,” Melton said.
Currently, the county directly employs three staff members and has contracts with additional personnel to meet local needs. By the end of August, it plans to hire Kari Ladrow as Routt County’s full-time public health director. Ladrow currently splits her time between Moffat and Routt counties. More staff, such as contact tracers and epidemiologists, could be hired with the relief funding.
Municipalities can use the relief money to cover other costs related the pandemic, such as emergency operations, human services and virus suppression. It also could provide grants for local businesses or other economic-related initiatives.
In Oak Creek, officials plan to use most of their allocated funds to extend and expand the town’s after school and summer programs due to increased demand, according to Corrigan, a South Routt resident.
If the county or any municipalities do not use their full allocations, the money can be redistributed locally. At the end of October, the county and municipalities plan to meet to discuss how to use or redistribute any remaining funds before the end of the year. If the various local entities cannot spend the money, it goes back to the state, according to Melton.
During a meeting on Tuesday, the commissioners also extended the local disaster declaration until Aug. 6, primarily as a way to secure additional funding in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To date, the county has spent about $900,000 on expenses related to the pandemic, according to Corrigan, and the expenses will only grow larger as the virus continues to plague communities. The CARES Act is one of three primary sources of relief funding, Corrigan explained. The local disaster declaration makes the county eligible for FEMA funding, which covers 75% of related costs.
Routt County also is set to receive about $400,000 from the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment. As Corrigan said, those funds expire after 30 months starting July 1, a much longer deadline than the CARES Act money. For that reason, the county aims to save the state funding until next year to cover future expenses that could arise if the virus resurges in the winter.
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