Island County receives more CARES pandemic funds

The most recent round of funds - nearly $1.7 million - was awarded to the county in early September.

A new wave of federal CARES funds has made its way to Island County, bringing the county’s total to $6.3 million.

Island County Budget Manager Doug Martin explained that when the first of the monies was received, back at the pandemic’s start, the intention was to allocate it to economic recovery, public health and the county’s needs, such as human services.

Over time, things evolved and it became clear that funding was also needed elsewhere to help the community respond to the impacts of COVID-19, Martin said.

The most recent round of funds — nearly $1.7 million — was awarded to the county the beginning of September when the state decided to allocate more of the grant money to counties with a population less than 500,000, Martin said.

As well as making this budget amendment to the contract with Island County, the state also extended the deadline for use of the grant until Nov. 30.

Money from the grant is only allowed to reimburse costs relating to COVID-19. Within the next five weeks, the county will need to account for all costs incurred and submit it to the state so reimbursement can be requested, Martin said.

During a board of county commissioners work session on Oct. 14, Martin presented a proposed breakdown for distributing the $1.7 million.

The commissioners gave Martin and the county directions to proceed with the allocation.

Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said about $100,000 will go toward a “buy local” campaign encouraging people to stay in the county during the holidays.

Another $200,000 will go toward the county’s human services department for additional funding of rental, mortgage and utility payments.

The Economic Development Council is managing a direct grant from the Department of Commerce to support small businesses, and the county is proposing a matching grant of $100,000.

Additionally, there is nearly $50,000 going toward supplemental economic development of small businesses.

Other funding will be allocated toward public health costs, food banks and nonprofits such as Island Senior Resources.

Additionally, the county is considering purchasing ultra-cold storage units, something that is currently not available, for a COVID-19 vaccine. Martin estimated during the meeting that this could cost around $15,000.

The commissioners also discussed the importance of working with the school districts. Martin said COVID-related costs for the schools could include the purchase of technology used for learning and PPE, personal protective equipment. This amounts to around $413,000.

Price Johnson said the goal is for the county to be active partners with the school districts.

“We want to enter into an agreement with the school districts that helps get them the resources they need and making sure we’re getting the referrals we need to help kids from falling through the cracks,” she said.