County to decide to participate in relief program

Mark Schnabel
Members of the Harvey County Commission prepare for a presentation from the Kansas Association of Counties regarding participation in the SPARK program, which will bring the county almost $6.7 million in COVID-19 recovery funding.

The Harvey County Board of Commissioners will likely come to a decision Tuesday on whether to participate in “Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK).”

The program will provide the county more than $6.68 million under the federal CARES Act to provide recovery relief from the COVID-19 virus outbreak. The amount is based on the county’s population.

The commission met Friday afternoon to hear a presentation from the Kansas Association of Counties about the program, and the requirements needed to participate.

According to the program, the funds can be used to cover costs that:

• Are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19).

• Were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 (the date of enactment of the CARES Act) for the State or government.

• Were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020, and ends on Dec. 30, 2020.

The money can be distributed to other governmental units in the county, such as cities and school boards. It also could go to such entities as hospitals or other health care providers.

The commissioners said they were unclear about certain procedures, such as when units are in more than one county.

“There have been changes since we’ve been working on this, and there were things different that I heard today from the KAC,” Commissioner Chip Westfall said. “I think with anything that crosses county lines, we’re going to have to communicate with other counties. I would agree with the previous discussion that we need to get the resolution in place. I think our next big step is to determine a contact person. Then we need to determine if we need additional help.”

The commission would have to come up with an application process for entities that would request funding under the program. There was talk of forming a committee to determine needs and distribution.

“That committee is only going to have two or three weeks to meet and get a plan back to you for your approval,” said county administrator Anthony Swartzendruber.

To participate, the county would have to pass a resolution by July 6. Any money that was not distributed, or any funds that were spent in an area ineligible for the funds, would have to be returned. The deadline for submitting a spending plan to the state is Aug. 15.