The Morganton City Council is holding a special meeting on Thursday to decide on an agreement with the county on funds for COVID-19-related expenses.
Burke County has received $1,722,221 in federal money from the Coronavirus Relief Fund established under the CARES Act. The money went to the state to disburse to counties to cover COVID-19-related expenses. The county is setting aside $300,000 of the money to help the city and local towns who have needs related to the virus pandemic, said Margaret Piece, Burke County finance director.
The council’s special meeting is scheduled for 9:15 a.m. Thursday, and in addition to deciding on the agreement with the county, the council will decide on whether to approve an application to the county for the funds.
Pierce said the county is liable if towns don’t use the money the way it should be used. She said the county is helping towns use the money appropriately.
“We want to know their boards know what they’re committing to,” Pierce said about the city and towns agreements with the county on funding.
There are specific items the money can be used for that fall into seven categories. Those categories include:
» Medical expenses for things such as the cost to provide testing, temporary medical facilities, EMS response expenses;
• Public health expenses such as medical and protective supplies, disinfecting public areas and quarantining people.
• Payroll expenses incurred from responding to the public health emergency.
• Expenses to comply with COVID-19 public health precautions such as employees teleworking, providing paid family and medical leave due to COVID-19 or sanitizing jails or public offices.
Pierce said the county has allocated $162,050 of the funding for the city of Morganton.
The allocations to the towns that submit a plan to the county for funding are based on population and will be distributed similar to the percentages the county distributes sales tax revenue, Pierce said.
The town of Valdese has submitted its plan for using its allocation of $42,900, she said. She said other towns in the county are working on their plans. The money has to be spent by December.
“None of these funds can replace revenues we’ve lost,” Pierce said of the funds.
Some of the things the county will spend the funds on are the health department, EMS and protective shielding in public offices, she said.
For example, Pierce said the health department needed interpreters to help with virus tracing. She said as the weather heats up it is difficult for health department staff to stay outside for hours testing people. She said the county is looking to get a climate-controlled tent to set up outside for testing and seeing clients.
Pierce said the county also has expenses related to the virus for things such as glass shielding in high contact offices and buildings to maintain social distancing, keyless entry in certain areas where it is high-touch areas, installing doors in other areas to limit access and purchased cloth masks for all employees.
Pierce said money that is not used by December has to be sent back to the state.
Under the Coronavirus Relief Fund established under the CARES Act, the four largest local governments (with populations in excess of 500,000) have already received a direct distribution from the U.S. Treasury of about $481 million; the remaining $3.585 billion in funds have come to the state and the remaining local governments, according to information from the state.
Sharon McBrayer is a staff writer and can be reached at email@example.com or at 828-432-8946.
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