Government, Latest News, Preston County

Preston Commission to discuss spending CARES money in upcoming work session

The Preston County Commission will start discussing how to spend about $240,000 in CARES Act reimbursements at a work session Aug. 31.

At its most recent meeting Tuesday, County Administrator Kathy encouraged the commission to start holding work sessions to prioritize maintenance projects and discuss requests received for CARES money. She suggested September, but after some discussion the commissioners decided since they were already committed to Tuesdays, to hold the first one the following week.

Mace told The Dominion Post the funds, also referred to as the “COVID money” or “money in the box,” is in the bank and ready to be spent in eligible ways, such as through in-house projects or nonprofits.

Commissioner Samantha Stone said she received a request from the hospital for a bariatric cot and felt very strongly the commission needed to move forward with it. 

Commissioner Dave Price said he’s been meeting with ambulance providers in the county to find out what their needs are because their feedback is important. He said he hopes all the commissioners could agree that some of the COVID money should go to beefing up EMS services in the county.

The sheriff’s department is also requesting some equipment out of those funds, Mace said. 

The roughly $240,000 was given to the county as reimbursement for services provided related to COVID-19. Mace said the funds had to be requested through a grant application with supporting documentation.

The majority of the reimbursement came from overtime for law enforcement, Mace said. Other jobs that responded to COVID, such as the administration of COVID-19 policies and custodial staff were also reimbursed, as was the money spent on hiring extra staff for the health department to do contract tracing, public relations and education. Mace said that money has already been returned to the health department.

CARES money must be spent by 2024, Mace said.

Two years later, in 2026, the commission must have spent money received from the American Rescue Plan. On July 1, the county received $3,246,887 — the first half of the funds.

There are six ways the ARP funds can be spent including water and sewage infrastructure, public health and broadband infrastructure, Mace said. 

Broadband is of particular interest to the commission because the pandemic showed it to be a great need for Preston County when school moved to online only, Mace said. Municipalities interested in funding an infrastructure project must provide details on the project.

Mace said the scale of the ARP is a “massive undertaking” with nothing like it happening before. It can be at times frustrating because the rules keep changing, but there are many organizations from the U.S. Treasury to the County Commissioners Association working hard to get local governments the information needed.

Mace hopes to have a big meeting between the county and municipalities in late September or early October to see what projects are being prioritized and what the county can do to help coordinate. Mace also wants to bring federal and state officials to answer questions.

Of course, depending on the COVID situation, it could be a Zoom meeting, Mace said.

TWEET @DominionPostWV