Jefferson County accepts $1.7 million in relief funds

Funds to be reimbursed by state

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County is receiving over $1.7 million from the state for such COVID-19-related expenses as testing and contact tracing.

Commissioners unanimously approved on Monday the agreement for Coronavirus Relief Funds from the state Department of Commerce. The pact allows the county to be reimbursed up to $1,754,500.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and national declaration of emergency, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The CARES Act authorizes Coronavirus Relief Funds to be allocated to units of local government to assist with costs that governments have accrued due to the pandemic and which still are providing basic local services, commission documents said.

The funds can help cover impacts of the COVID-19 emergency between March 1 and Oct. 31, said Patty Charnas, Jefferson County COVID pandemic response and recovery finance section chief.

Expenses for which the county can be reimbursed include COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, public health expenses such as communication and enforcement of health orders due to COVID-19, medical and protective supplies, homeless population care and other issues.

Charnas and County Administrator Philip Morley are working out the expenses for which they want to request reimbursement and will present them to commissioners in a few weeks, they said.

Morley estimated in an interview Tuesday that between $150,000 and $165,000 has been earmarked for use of the funding, he said.

“Administering this program is going to take some resources, and that’s something we’re still refining,” Morley told commissioners on Monday.

“While we’re deeply appreciative of resources, just managing them and compiling and just being audited is going to take substantial care.”

The funds can not be used for items that were already included in the county’s budget, Charnas said.

The full discussion and outline of what the funding can be used for can be found at tinyurl.com/PDN-JeffCoCovidFunding.

District 1 commissioner Kate Dean reiterated there will be many conversations regarding how the money will be used.

“I’m glad for the assistance,” Dean said. “It doesn’t come without a lot of headache trying to figure out what is reimbursable, and how and where.”

The City of Port Townsend was issued $288,300 in relief funds and, previously, the city council has noted it plans to collaborate with the county on potential shared projects and approaches.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached by email at zjablonski@peninsuladailynews.com or by phone at 360-385-2335, ext. 5.

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