Clallam County looks to prioritize CARES aid

Federal dollars to help recovery from coronavirus

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commissioners are reviewing spending priorities for coronavirus relief.

The county received $4.18 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to support needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I do expect there will be additional resources,” Board Chairman Mark Ozias said in a Monday work session.

“I also expect that, whatever it is, it’s not going to be enough to meet the need.”

Commissioners have identified six priority areas — public health, business support, rental and utility assistance, support for the homeless population, child care and food security — for CARES Act funding.

Clallam County already has committed a “large portion” of its CARES Act funding for public health staffing, information technology infrastructure and other areas specific to COVID-19, officials said.

The county had $1.3 million in unallocated CARES Act funding available as of last week, Chief Financial Officer Mark Lane said in a board memo.

Commissioner Randy Johnson on Monday said public health staffing and COVID-19 equipment “have to rise to the top” of the priority list.

“As much as all these other things are absolutely a need of individuals, all we need to do is have a Yakima outbreak and not have the capability to handle that,” Johnson said, referring to the 6,326 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Yakima County.

“I think everyone understands that that’s a need.”

Ozias and Johnson agreed Monday — with Commissioner Bill Peach excused — to disperse CARES Act funding in the following amounts:

• $200,000 for business support.

Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Marc Abshire suggested a $100,000 allocation for Black Ball Ferry Line, which operates the M/V Coho ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria.

The ferry is not operating because of COVID-19 restrictions in the U.S. and Canada.

“I certainly understand and agree with the unique importance of Black Ball to our region and to our economy,” Ozias said.

“I do want to make sure that there aren’t other businesses that would fall into that category that we’re not thinking about.”

• $110,000 for nonprofit child care.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula, Shore Aquatic Center and Olympic Peninsula YMCA have agreed to collaborate on child care through September.

“There’s a longer-term issue,” Johnson said of the child care shortage in Clallam County. “Big time.”

• $60,000 for food security.

Clallam County’s Washington State University Extension Office will use the funds to purchase two food storage units, Extension Director Clea Rome said.

• An unspecified amount for public health and homeless issues.

“Those are going to be firm expenses that will develop additional shape over time,” Ozias said.

“If were lucky, maybe they’ll cost a little bit less than we planned for.”

• An unspecified amount for rental assistance and utility relief.

“For right now, I think that we can say that our assumptions are that we will be dedicating some CARES (Act) dollars to rental and utilities assistance,” Ozias said.

“We’re not yet sure how much.”

Commissioners will continue to discuss CARES Act funding every week at 10 a.m. Mondays.

“We’ve got additional work to do to put some shape around some of these areas,” Ozias said.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

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