By Anna Jauhola
Entities throughout Kittson County can be looking for possible financial assistance due to business interruption from the COVID-19 pandemic.
A group of county leaders gathered on Wednesday, Aug. 5, appointed by the county commission, to begin the process of deciding how to spend money allocated to the county through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The state of Minnesota received $841.5 million to distribute to counties, cities and townships with populations over 200. Kittson County received $516,463. The county is also responsible for distributing funds to cities and townships with populations under 200. For that the county received $25,540 for the cities and $42,400 for the townships.
The county has until the end of December to distribute the money. Entities can apply for funds to cover losses incurred between March 1, 2020, and Dec. 30, 2020.
The group consists of Commission Chair Theresia Gillie, Commissioner Loren Younggren, Kittson Central Superintendent Bob Jaszczak, Kittson Healthcare CEO Gabe Mooney, Public Health Director Cindy Urbaniak, Public School Nurse Jeanna Kujava and County Emergency Manager Scot Olson.
During the group’s initial meeting last week, they decided for sure the county must determine its own costs incurred due to COVID-19 before doling out any other funding. Much of the county’s expenses include Olson’s time spent on coordinating efforts regarding the pandemic, the county’s unbudgeted funds spent such as physical protection like plexiglass and hand sanitizer, and paying staff who were forced to self-quarantine at the beginning of the pandemic.
Olson said he has been tracking his time to ensure reimbursement.
The group also decided they will create an application and process for businesses, nonprofits and other entities to follow to recoup losses incurred due to the pandemic. The group continually mentioned the need to support local businesses that suffered and continue to suffer due to closures beyond their control.
“This is our chance to help the little guy,” Gillie said.
Most important, they will be working to ensure the whole process and distribution of money is compliant with the detailed, and often complicated, criteria given in the CARES Act.
“As God as my witness, we will not return any of this money,” Gillie said.
The group discussed that Hallock, Lancaster, Karlstad and Lake Bronson each received money from the state as the populations are over 200 residents. The county will work to be careful to ensure entities don’t “double-dip.”
Each school has also received a stipend from the state to help cover costs incurred in equipping the buildings with sanitizing equipment and other expenses related to COVID-19.
Guidance for government entities, businesses and others is available through the U.S. Treasury Department website: https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/cares.
Jaszczak will visit with the county school superintendents to determine what schools need and how this funding can help them outside the funding the schools received.
Urbaniak and Kujava will work to anticipate the needs of schools and public health.
Olson will continue to track costs associated with COVID-19 throughout county buildings.
The group will meet again on Thursday, Aug. 13 at 9 a.m. in the courthouse upstairs meeting room.
By Anna Jauhola