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Benton County Finance Committee discusses CARES money

by Mike Jones | March 5, 2021 at 7:00 a.m.

BENTONVILLE -- Benton County will set aside $100,000 to be used if needed for upcoming county covid-19 vaccination events.

The Finance Committee on Thursday night started discussion about how to spend the $3.79 million in CARES Act money the county received last year.

The item was moved to the Quorum Court for approval. There will not be a Committee of the Whole meeting this month.

The county, with vaccines provided by Collier Drug Store, is looking to initially provide 1,000 doses a week over a three-month span. The county would look to create a "storefront" to supply the shots, said Michael Waddle, county Director of Emergency Management.

Collier Drug will coordinate registration and appointment times, Waddle said.

County Judge Barry Moehring said the county needs to have a more systematic approach for events as more vaccine becomes available. That's where the money could come in handy or it might not be used at all, he said. The county would like to use the County Fairgrounds Auditorium as a vaccination site, he said.

The county participated in vaccination events at the Northeast Benton County Fire Department in Garfield last Saturday where more than 1,000 vaccines were given and an event in Decatur on Thursday where 500 shots were given, Moehring said. The county is using the two-shot procedure.

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act was enacted March 27. There was $150 billion for states, local governments, tribes and territories to respond to, prevent and prepare for covid-19, according to a presentation Moehring made to the committee.

The CARES Act application process opened in September. Benton County submitted an application for $3.79 million in October and received the money in November. A special account for the money was then set up, according to the presentation.

One submission for payroll reimbursement was the most expeditious way to secure the funding for the county. That method was approved by the state Department of Finance and Administration, according to the presentation.

Washington County was awarded the $4.5 million in CARES Act money largely for payroll expenses for employees in public safety and law enforcement jobs. County Treasurer Bobby Hill has told justices of the peace last month the money isn't restricted and can be used for any legal county purposes.

Items eligible for reimbursement include medical-care expenses, payroll and benefits for public employees, public health and infection control measures, compliance with public health orders and economic recovery, according to Moehring's presentation.

Benton County has satisfied the grant requirements and the money can be considered unencumbered, Moehring said.

Justice of the Peace Joseph Bollinger at the meeting also outlined his plan to use $1 million in county CARES Act money to provide grants to small businesses. The county would use a third party to administer the money, Bollinger said. Some justices of the peace said they wanted more information and it was decided to move discussion to next month's Finance Committee meeting.

Bollinger admitted the plan was still in its infancy and he wanted to get feedback from other justices of the peace.

Bollinger asked that a subcommittee be formed and that it meet before the next Finanace Committee meeting. That motion was approved.

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Rental assistance program

The Finance Committee also heard an update on information available on the county rental assistance program’s website www. The county is working with Springdale’s Excellerate Foundation to administer the program. More than $298,550 has been committed so far. Information updates about every two hours.

The county received an $8.3 million grant from the Federal Emergency Rental Assistance program passed by the U.S. Congress as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and signed into law by President Donald J. Trump. The program appropriated $25 billion for rental relief for individuals who face evictions due to economic hardships as a result of the covid-19 pandemic.

Source: Benton County


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