Camden County CARES funds pump millions into local assistance

Joyce Miller
Governmental entities including Camden County received the bulk of the CARES funds of the $5.4 million.

Of the $5.4 million Camden County received for COVID-19 relief, over $2.3 million went back out into the community through distributions to school districts, various taxing entities, nonprofits and small businesses.

The $5.4 million was the county’s share of the $2.4 billion in federal funding under the initial CARES Act allocated to the state of Missouri. The funds are part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to local governments. The funds were intended to help with recovery efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Under the initial CARES Act, Missouri received around $2.4 billion in federal funding. The majority of the money the state received, roughly 75 percent was allocated to St. Louis and Jackson counties, with the rest of the state sharing the remaining 25 percent. The funds were administered by the Camden County auditor's office and all expenditures were approved by the Camden County Commissioners. CARES Funds use were mandated with guidelines provided by the Federal and State Treasury offices for the offset of the COVID pandemic expenditures. County and other government entities such as municipalities, along with schools, medical, small business, and non-profit community organizations were on the final funding list. 

Camden County Auditor Jimmy Laughlin said it was a long process but, in the end, he felt Camden County had distributed the funds in a fair and equitable manner. He was especially pleased with the funding Camden County was able to provide to non-profits and organizations that have a direct impact on the quality of life for many residents. 

“As the year progressed, we realized how much our community service organizations were suffering,” he said.”Keeping our food banks and shelters open was of absolute importance.”

The organizations were hit hard with the shutdown in Camden County that lasted for more than 30 days and drastically affected their donations, Laughlin said.  

Food banks specifically for senior citizens received $187,632. Other food banks and shelters received $93,374. Animal shelters were given a total of $143,697 with several other non-profits receiving just over $14,500.  

Laughlin said schools were also a priority to aid them to meet the guidelines to remain open and from costs incurred from the spring/summer closures. The majority of the schools that applied were approved for matching grants that were administered through the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and required matching county funds. 

Camden County invested in were the purchase of a court audio/video system for using technology in the courtroom. The county has purchased the Polycom system.  It is the only system approved by the state.  The need for the system has been highlighted by the court backlog due to COVID-19 having an impact on in-court appearances. The Polycom system will allow the court and jail to communicate directly as well as with the Missouri Department of Corrections and other entities reducing staffing to escort, travel to and from other facilities, and cut down on vehicle maintenance. 

“From the courtside, the new system will allow us to more efficiently resolve cases with defendants, civil litigants and witnesses appearing remotely when appropriate,” C Laughlin said. “The new system will also make trials, including jury matters more effective.” 

The Camden County Sheriff’s Department received funding to upgrade the radio system. The department faced a number of challenges when responding to COVID-19 related incidents with communications, including relaying health-related information. 

Laughlin said the sheriff’s radio system was outdated and trying to keep radios working required finding and using used parts to fix them. The new radio will not improve the ability to communicate isn areas of the county where service is spotty but the system is encrypted to protect confidential communications such as health-related information that is protected under HIPPA. 

The two projects combined cost the county approximately $1.6 million. 

Another project that will benefit the county long after the pandemic is over is the addition of a critical care ambulance unit to transport COVID and critical care patients without taking a unit of out of service. The application was submitted by Lake Regional in an effort to keep local ambulances serving the medical needs of the public while giving the lake area another option to transfer patients and eliminate taking an ambulance out of service because of COVID and not be able to respond to another emergency. 

“With the current overworked system, the hospital saw the need for a critical care unto for transport to larger hospitals in Springfield or Columbia from nursing homes and other care facilities that were only able to be currently meet by the hospital helicopter,” Laughlin said. 

Medical Missions for Christ was also the recipient of CARES funds to help provide services to those in need. Based in Camdenton, the organization provides health, dental and behavioral care to the uninsured and those who meet the federal poverty level. Services are provided by volunteers. The organization does not receive any government subsidies. The financial support comes from donations, grants and fundraisers. 

Here’s a breakdown of where the $5.4 million went: 

Governmental entities including Camden County received the bulk of the CARES funds of the $5.4 million. 

*Camden County received $1.6 million for law enforcement and the court's system with an additional $1.6 million allocated to cover other related expenses incurred by the county. 

*Fire protection Districts received a total of $338,644. 

*Municipalities received $215,429 with other public entities, such as the library system receiving $16,841. 

•Schools throughout the county received just over $680,000 or 13 percent of all the money distributed. Camdenton School District receiving the largest chunk of funding based on the number of students served within Camden County at 363,539 followed by Macks Creek at $131,902.  Richland, Stoutland, Climax Springs and School of the Osage also received fundings based on the number of Camden County students served. 

•Small businesses accounted for 12 percent of the funding received a total of $665,357. Applications were handled through Camdenton, Lake West and Lake Area chambers who partnered with the county to assist with determining eligibility and getting the funds to small businesses that needed the help most. Of the businesses that were awarded funds, about 50 percent were not members of any chamber. The county received 84 applications with 71 being approved. The county was broken down into regions with the chambers. A group of 9 community members was brought in to review the applications. Funds were not used for replacing lost revenue only for mortgage payments, rent, PPE supplies, social distancing barriers and other COVID-19 related expenses. 

*Non-profit and medical organizations were awarded 15 percent of the overall funding available receiving $436,557 and $375,661 respectively. 

Uses covered under the CARES funding included:

1. PPE/Sanitization-included costs for facemasks, gloves, face shields, personal protection equipment, hand sanitizers, cleaning, cleaning supplies for sanitization, and disinfectant. Equipment for sanitization of facilities and necessary equipment. Thermometers for temperature checking for government facilities and private businesses. 

2. Infrastructure-included costs for computers, internet, software, and communication for teleworking or working remotely (like from home) for government and business. Telecommunications including educational software, distance learning, social distancing, and computers and internet devices for students and buses for students. Barriers for cough and sneeze shields, signage for social distancing, and no-touch process. Water bottle filling stations for sanitary purposes in some schools. Freezers and refrigeration for extra space for prepared meals for students. 

3. Economic-included payroll more specifically Overtime for government entities, Small Businesses during the pandemic, utilities, mortgage payments, and/or rent. Cost of goods for Non-profit Community Organizations-Food Banks and shelters that help our community. Social Distancing personnel- needed position due to COVID.