County securing protective equipment, outlines future funding possibilities

By: 
Adam Rollins
Staff Writer

Warren County officials this week plan to distribute about 1,000 protective masks to local first responder agencies, and are ordering 10 times that number thanks to funding provided under the federal CARES Act.

County Emergency Management Director Mike Daniels said he has placed an order for another 10,000 masks, as well as gloves, gowns, face shields and hand sanitizer to protect emergency responders and health officials from COVID-19. The two rounds of personal protective equipment (PPE) orders cost a total of about $40,500, Daniels said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, positive cases of COVID-19 in Warren County stood at 29 cases identified, 26 recovered and zero deaths, according to the Warren County Health Department.

Warren County this month received $4.1 million in federal aid funding for expenses related to COVID-19 response and prevention. Personal protective equipment qualifies for that funding, Daniels said.

“It’s easier to buy (PPE) in bulk versus each agency trying to find it,” Daniels explained.

The first round of 1,000 masks was ordered back in April and just arrived this week, Daniels added. The county doesn’t have a delivery date for the next shipment.

“It’s a slow process. There’s a shortage of PPE nationally,” Daniels said. “It’s frustrating that it took me seven weeks to get the initial order of PPE in. Six months ago, you would’ve had it in a week, at much less cost.”

County leaders have said PPE and cleaning supplies for first responders, health officials and local city offices are their first priority for the CARES funding. Southern District Commissioner Hubie Kluesner said the county is in the process of collecting information from agencies so it can reimburse COVID-related costs that have been incurred since March 1.

The three phases of COVID-19 funding in Warren County will be to reimburse what cities and emergency districts have already spent because of the crisis, then procure 90 days worth of PPE for every emergency agency, then hold funding in reserve for overtime payroll in case of a future spike in cases of the virus.

Advisor priorities

Helping the commission decide how to allocate the $4.1 million in federal funding will be an advisory committee of three local businessmen. The committee will have first eyes on future CARES funding requests, commissioners said.

Among the directives for the committee is what could qualify for the funding, and what order funding requests are to be considered if funds are available, according to a May 12 commission order.

Kluesner said commissioners will have their first discussion with the advisory committee next week, but doesn’t have a date when the committee will begin hearing requests.

“We have to be very cautious and very frugal with this money so that we can make it to Dec. 31,” which is the cutoff for expenses, said Northern District Commissioner Dan Hampson.

However, if funding is available late into the year after addressing the county’s major priorities, the commission’s directives include an ordered list of further expenses for the advisory committee to consider. Those include:

• Technology improvements to provide more county services remotely to minimize in-person contact;
• Assist in food delivery to food-insecure residents in a way that meets health precautions;
• Assist in protecting homeless residents from COVID-19;
• If any funds are available, consider aid for local businesses affected by COVID-19.

However, Hampson strongly warned that funding might not be available for any of those purposes. The county commission will make the final decision on any spending recommendations from the advisory committee.

“It’s a possibility that funding will be there, but we don’t know at this point,” Hampson said. “I don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring.”

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