Webster County officials have come up with a process for distributing the $4,644,932 the county received in CARES Act funding, and applications are available now.

The $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, passed and signed into law on March 27, includes several funding programs. It was through the CARES Act that most people received a $1,200 stimulus check for coronavirus relief, that four months of extra unemployment benefits were allocated and that small and large businesses were granted grants, loans and loan relief.

The CARES Act fund that has provided $4.6 million to Webster County is reserved for state, territorial, local and tribal governments.

According to a guidance document provided to the county, money from the fund in question can be used only for costs that are necessary expenditures incurred due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, that were not accounted for in the regular budget of a government entity and that were incurred in the period of March 1 to Dec. 30 this year.

The Webster County Commissioners appointed Sigel Owen, a native Webster Countian who is retired after 31 years as a milk sanitarian, to administer the funds on the county level. City/town and township administrators must first approve the applications before passing them on to Owen, who will review them before passing them on to the commissioners for the final OK.

There are two phases of funding. Phase I has an application deadline of Sept. 1, and Phase II applications are due Dec. 1.

Owen explained that local governments, like Seymour, Diggins, Fordland, Niangua, Rogersville and townships, will first verify the applications. “They will be passed along to me for a second set of eyes, and then they will be passed to the commissioners, who will approve a decision,” he said. “Hopefully within a couple of weeks there will be checks out to these people.”

Owen explained that the first phase will focus on providing funding for expenditures related to minimizing risk of coronavirus. He explained that funds can be used for any expenditure a business, governmental entity or organization had to use because of COVID-related activity. Expenditures might include such areas as the purchasing of personal protective equipment or sanitizer, the hiring of cleaning services or the erection of physical structures meant as a barrier against viral infection (such as plexiglass shields in a checkout line).

Phase II of funding may open funding to cover other expenses, such as COVID-related loss of revenue, though an entity may not “double-dip” and receive other CARES Act funding for the same expenses.

Webster County Treasurer Todd Hungerford said in an interview that the wording of the act is confusing, and there have been four or five updates since its initial approval. All of this makes it hard to keep up, according to Hungerford.

He simplified things by explaining that the money is for nonprofits, businesses and governmental entities to cover COVID-related costs.

“If it was previously unbudgeted and cost you more, you’re probably eligible,” he said. He added, “If you need it, you need to apply.”

Hungerford said that he just wants people to know that the money is there. “I would hate to send that money back if there’s still a need,” he said.

Funds will be audited, and expenditures must be carefully tracked with receipts, Owen noted. Owen’s own aim is to manage the program well.

“I just want to represent Webster County well and try to do what’s right,” he said.

Owen’s services are funded by the CARES Act grant itself, and some entities within the county have also hired administrators. In Seymour, for instance, the board of aldermen hired Terry Penner as the administrator of funds for the city, and she will review applications before forwarding them along to Owen.

When funds are granted, they will be given to local entities to distribute to the recipients.

Applications are available in the Webster County courthouse in Owen’s basement office, Hungerford’s office or the Webster County Clerk’s office. They are also available in city halls in Marshfield, Seymour, Diggins, Rogersville, Niangua and Fordland. Funds must be for expenses within the boundaries of Webster County.

Mail photo by Karen Craigo

Sigel Owen (left), administrator of CARES Act funds for Webster County, meets with Webster County Treasurer Todd Hungerford (center) and Commissioner Randy Owens to finalize plans for the county’s distribution of $4.6 million in COVID-19 relief funds to businesses, governmental entities and nonprofits in the county. The federal funds can reimburse for expenses related to the coronavirus pandemic, such as that bottle of hand sanitizer or the screening personnel stationed at the entrance to the courthouse.

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