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Hertford County towns request COVID relief funds

WINTON – As part of the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, And Economic Security Act (CARES Act), each state received funding to cover COVID-19 expenses for the public health emergency.

In turn, each state expended a portion of that funding to aid their counties. North Carolina was awarded a shade over $4 billion from the CARES Act and allocated money – established as the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) – to each county based on population.

Hertford County received two disbursements of CARES Act funding. The first allocation came in late May in the amount of $635,233 and the second arriving in July for $459,522. That adds to a total of $1,094,755 of which $273,689 was earmarked for the county’s municipalities.

At a previous meeting of the Hertford County Commissioners, County Manager David Cotton was asked to share information regarding the amounts of CRF money requested by the local towns. He provided that information at the Sept. 8 scheduled meeting of the board.

Cotton said the amount requested from four of the county’s five incorporated municipalities totaled $277,012.

“Per the amount and the guidance from the state and federal governments, we are required to offer 25 percent of what we received, and that’s around $275,000, to our towns,” Cotton told the commissioners.

Officials with each incorporated town in the county were contacted regarding the availability of the funds and were asked to submit a requested amount and to document how that money would be expended.

As the county’s largest town, Ahoskie’s CRF request topped the list at $219,000. Town Manager Kerry McDuffie said that money would be used as follows:

$10,400 to cover the town’s cost of providing COVID-19 testing at the Ahoskie Creek Recreational Complex.

$38,400 for public health expenses, to include funding for the communication of public health orders issued by federal and state authorities, expenses for the purchase and distribution of medical and protective supplies, including sanitizing products and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), and expenses for technical assistance for updating the town’s website and phone system that will mitigate COVID-19 related threats to public health.

$11,200 to cover expenses to improve telework capabilities for public employees to enable compliance with COVID-19 public health precautions through the use of new video and phone equipment.

$125,000 for expenses associated with the provision of economic support in connection with the COVID-19 public health emergency, such as expenditures related to the provision of a grant to Vidant Hospital for the construction of a negative pressure pulmonary edema.

$34,000 for payroll expenses associated with the increased cost of public works department maintenance.

The Town of Murfreesboro requested $45,000. Town Administrator Carolyn Brown said those expenditures included:

$24,000 for communication and enforcement of public health orders, expenses for medical and protective supplies, including sanitizing products and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), and expenses for disinfection of public areas and other facilities in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

$11,000 to improve telework for town employees and the board and the citizens and for video and audio equipment.

$10,000 to cover the costs of payroll expenses for Public Works and first responders.

The Town of Harrellsville requested $9,552 of which the largest part ($6,300) would be used to cover expenses incurred by food delivery to residents, including senior citizens and other vulnerable populations; facilitate distance learning, including technological improvements in connection with school closings; expenses to improve telework capabilities for public employees; and covering the costs of providing paid sick and paid family and medical leave to public employees to enable compliance with COVID-19 public health precautions.

Additionally, Harrellsville Town Clerk/Finance Officer Dina Harrell requested $1,500 for public health expenses, $1,500 for the town’s volunteer fire department and first responders, and $252 to cover payroll expenses for employees who respond to a public health emergency.

The Town of Winton requested $3,460 of which more than one-half ($2,300) was for the purchase and distribution of medical and protective supplies, including sanitizing products and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment); for the disinfection of public areas; and for public safety measures.

Winton Town Clerk/Finance Officer Amanda Henderson also requested on behalf of town officials $960 for sanitizing products and PPE for small businesses, for the disinfection of public areas of small businesses, and expenses for public safety measures undertaken in response to COVID-19 for small businesses; and $200 for improved telework capabilities for public employees to enable compliance with COVID-19 public health precautions.

Cotton said the Town of Cofield submitted a CRF request in the amount of $34,000. However, that request was turned in two days after the deadline to submit.

“Therefore, they are not eligible; they missed the deadline,” Cotton said.

Cotton asked the commissioners to look over the funding requests made by the municipalities and stated further discussion could be shared at their scheduled board retreat on Oct. 5.

“I’ve determined that everything is eligible [for CRF money] with the exception the one from Ahoskie [$125,000 related to the provision of a grant to the hospital] and being such a large amount I wanted to make absolutely sure so you can make a decision,” Cotton noted. “If we back out of that $125,000 for Ahoskie, that puts our total at well below the $275,000 we’re required to provide our towns.”

Cotton added he would check with NC PRO – a state entity offering technical assistance for those receiving CRF and ensures proper reporting and accounting of all funds – on that particular request from Ahoskie.

Commissioner Leroy Douglas remarked he was aware that the CRF money, “comes back to us [the county] if they [towns] do not use it.”

“Can we grant any [unused] money to Cofield,” Douglas asked.

“I don’t think so,” Cotton answered.

The county manager added that all CFR money is required to be expended by Dec. 31.

According to state guidelines, CRF money may be used for medical needs including the COVID-19 related expenses of public hospitals and clinics, including testing; public health expenses, such as personal protective equipment and other medical supplies, as well as the cost of cleaning public areas and facilities such as nursing homes; payroll expenses for public safety or healthcare employees dedicated to responding to the COVID-19 emergency; and expenses to comply with public health measures, including teleworking, distance learning, food delivery, paid leave for public employees, expenses for maintaining prisons, and protecting the homeless population.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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