Summit County anticipates spending $6.3 million on COVID-19 in 2020
KEYSTONE — Fighting a pandemic isn’t cheap. Just look at Summit County’s budget for the novel coronavirus.
At a Summit Board of County Commissioners work session Tuesday, Nov. 10, Summit County Finance Director Marty Ferris and County Manager Scott Vargo presented on the county’s COVID-19 funding and finances. According to the presentation, the county expects to spend a total of $6.3 million in 2020 on the pandemic.
In 2021, the county expects to spend another $1.1 million.
The expenses so far are offset by $5.5 million the county has received in COVID-19 related grants and donations. However, the county is looking to other grants and reimbursement programs to help pay for the rest of the expenses.
Most of the county’s spending on the pandemic has been related to new and current staff positions. For example, the county is expecting to spend $407,205 on contact tracing and data analysis staff; $768,882 on existing staff in public health, environmental health, human services and emergency management; $405,207 on existing staff working on COVID-related topics; and more than $3 million on transit staff and admin.
The funding for transit staff was provided through the Federal Transit Administration. Vargo said it allowed the county’s bus system to continue operating despite decreased ridership and a drop in sales tax revenue that usually is allocated toward the buses.
“That was a direct allocation that went from the (Federal Transit Administration) through the state to different transit systems within Colorado,” Vargo said.
Ferris said September numbers show sales tax revenue to be down 6%, which amounts to about $620,000 that the county’s transit system won’t see in 2020.
Vargo said the $407,205 allocated for contact tracing staff is the “best estimate” of what the county will spend. However, that number could increase as the county continues to hire more staff with rising case numbers.
“As we see this surge, we are continuing to hire more contact tracing staff,” he said. “We expect that to continue into 2021.”
The county has budgeted $503,196 for six more months of pay for contact tracing staff in 2021.
“That may be optimistic on our part that we’ll be able to ramp down at some point,” Vargo said. “If the vaccine proves to be as effective as the initial reports are suggesting, maybe that’s reasonable. It’s going to all depend on, is it truly that effective and how quickly is it going to be able to be distributed to communities?”
The county also has received other grants from state and federal agencies, including $1.4 million from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.
“That is the first allocation we received for coronavirus relief funding that went to the state from the federal government and then was divvied out based on population,” Vargo said.
The county has made a request for $1.8 million in additional funding that the state department has set aside for a second round of CARES Act dollars. Vargo said the county has not received a final answer on that request.
That money comes in the form of a reimbursement for funds spent on coronavirus relief. Vargo said anything that the county won’t be reimbursed for through the surplus has the potential to be reimbursed from the Federal Emergency Management Agency at 75%.
The FEMA reimbursement applies as long as the federal declaration of emergency remains, Vargo said.
The county also received a number of donations from nonprofits to help with emergency food distribution. Some of those donors include local groups like The Summit Foundation, which donated $14,500, and Summit County Seniors, which donated $5,000.
While some of the funding the county has received is available through next year, most of it expires in December. Vargo said the county is in the process of determining how to optimize the rest of the funding available for the year.
“We’re trying to understand where (the funding) sits and make sure we’re using the dollars that we have to spend sooner, sooner, and then relying on those others for things that might carry out in the future,” he said.
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Testing for the novel coronavirus won’t be available on Thanksgiving day, Public Health Director Amy Wineland said at a Board of Health meeting Tuesday, Nov. 24.