RIO GRANDE COUNTY- This summer Rio Grande County along with all Colorado counties, received Coronavirus Relief Fund (CVRF) funding from the state and is working to allocate the funding to municipalities within the county. In a county meeting in July, the county was named the fiscal agent for the funding by all municipalities in Rio Grande County.
Town representatives from Center, Monte Vista, Del Norte and South Fork all attended the meeting and agreed that it was in the best interest of the municipalities to have the county represent them as the fiscal agent for the COVID Relief Funding, CVRF and who would compile the list of needs from each municipality to submit to the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) for reimbursement.
“This has been a very difficult road to navigate. The guidelines provided through the state are hard to understand and we, as the fiscal agents for the funding just want to be sure that not only are the needs of all municipalities and businesses met, but that we don’t end up having to repay something we can’t afford,” said Rio Grande Commissioner Chairman John Noffsker.
The county has been receiving expense lists from each municipality and from Rio Grande Hospital detailing the expenses that were directly related directly related to COVID-19 expenses and are actively working with each entity to determine what qualifies for the funding reimbursement. “We have to be very cautious of what we submit to DOLA for reimbursement. If we issue the funding from the county’s general fund and then find out that it did not qualify for reimbursement or did not meet the state guidelines, then we are fiscally responsible for that funding,” explained Noffsker.
The County was issued $960,000 to use for COVID-19 related expenses but the guidelines require the reimbursements to be for things that have capital longevity longer than a year. “For example, I was in recent conversations with Rio Grande Hospital which is dealing with the shortage of COVID-19 rapid tests. We could purchase those tests with this funding if it weren’t for the shortage. We could also purchase Personal Protective Equipment, but they are not in need of additional PPE at this time,” said Noffsker.
Other expenses that could meet the guidelines are anything the municipalities had to create in order to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. “For instance, the county had to create a position to deal with the COVID response. This position could potentially be approved for reimbursement, but it is not particularly clear whether it would be or not. We are just trying to be diligent in how we spend the money while also trying to make sure our community needs are met.”
Noffsker stated that the county is currently compiling a spreadsheet that consists of the data they are receiving from each municipality and will be making decisions on what to submit to DOLA in upcoming weeks. The county has until Dec. 30 to allocate the funding. “From what we have heard from other Colorado counties, some of them are scared to spend the funding for fear of having to pay it back. We are trying to weed through the information provided to us by the guidelines from the state and will do the best we can to get this funding where it needs to go. If we don’t spend it, it gets sent back to the state and we will have to see what happens from there.”