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Transcript of JoCo on the Go podcast 05/28/2020

Theresa Freed [00:00:00] On this episode hear from Johnson County leaders and experts about the CARES Act, what it is and what kind of relief it's providing. Also on this episode, find out what the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment is doing to keep track of the spread of the virus. Hear how contact tracing capacity is growing.

Announcer [00:00:15] Whether you live in or just love Johnson County, JoCo on the Go has everything Johnson County. Here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community you call home.

Theresa Freed [00:00:30] It's been a busy week at the state and local level as the governor's office. cities and Johnson County address the state legislature's move on Thursday, May 21st, to weaken the governor's emergency power. On Tuesday of this week, the governor vetoed that bill and offered her original Ad Astra Plan to reopen the state as guidance instead of an executive order, leaving counties to impose their own health, business and mass gathering limits. As local government and the state continue to address this issue, Johnson County has renewed its original March 13th emergency disaster declaration, which helps ensure the county has access to needed resources, including assistance and relief from the state and federal government. Receiving support is important since the county, like other entities, has taken a financial hit. To talk more about that, we have Johnson County Deputy County Manager Maury Thompson. First up, can you tell us about CARES funding?

Maury Thompson [00:01:22] I'm pleased to be here to talk about the CARES Act. The CARES Act is the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act. It's a $2.2 trillion economic relief package meant to protect the American people from the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19 and it actually consists of four primary components. The first is the assistance for American workers and families. The second is the assistance for small businesses. Third, industry, job preservation and finally, assistance for state and local governments. And that's what I'll talk primarily about today.

Theresa Freed [00:02:00] And how is that being distributed in Johnson County?

Maury Thompson [00:02:03] Well, Johnson County has now received more than $116 million in assistance to us here in local government. These funds have currently been used for a number of eligible expenditures, including the purchase of personal protective equipment, or PPE, for our first responders, law enforcement and health and human service staff. These funds have also allowed us to provide PPE to many of our city partners, as well as health care organizations. Other CARES Act funds have been distributed to community members and small business through enhanced unemployment insurance benefits from the Paycheck Protection Program. Or you may have heard that referred to as the PPP.

Theresa Freed [00:02:44] As we begin talking about the county budget, this topic is certainly being addressed. So how has the county been financially impacted by the pandemic?

Maury Thompson [00:02:52] Well, that's primarily occurred by the need to expend funds directly in response to the pandemic. To date, we've expended nearly $670,000 in material, supplies and contractual services. We're right now assessing the amount of staff time and wages that have been committed to the pandemic response. We're also currently projecting a loss of about $25 million for the remainder of this calendar or fiscal year due to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

Theresa Freed [00:03:22] And we've recently heard about the community development block grant. So what is that and does Johnson County qualify?

Maury Thompson [00:03:29] The Community Development Block Grant or CDBG is a number of programs meant to build stronger and more resilient communities. Activities may address needs such as infrastructure, economic development projects, public facilities, installation, community centers, housing rehabilitation, public services, microenterprise assistance, code enforcement and homeowner assistance, just to name a few. The CARES Act allocated $5 billion in additional CDBG funding. We do qualify. Johnson County government has been notified that we will receive more than $600,000 in additional funds this year. This allocation is for the county and cities for which we administer the CDBG program. Cities with population more than 50000, which are known as entitlement cities, they may choose to administer their own CDBG program. In Johnson County. That's the cities of Overland Park. Olathe, Shawnee and Lenexa. These cities have received additional funds directly as well. There's recently been some confusion on this topic, I know, in the community. My prior comments were relative to a first distribution of additional CDBG funds. There's since been a second distribution, which has been labeled CDBG-CV for coronavirus. This allocation of nearly $8 million was sent solely to states and we've not received notice of if or when those funds may be distributed to counties or cities in the state.

Theresa Freed [00:04:57] And with more on CDBG funding, have Viki Schmidt with Johnson County Human Services. She's the community development coordinator. Viki, can you talk about how funds are allocated?

Viki Schmidt [00:05:07] In Johnson County for entities received additional CBG funding through the CARES Act in response to COVID-19 for costs incurred March 1st, 2020 through September 30th, 2022, Overland Park received $466,120, Shawnee received $168,955, Lenexa received $135,507 and Johnson County received $631,737. Olathe receives funds from the county allocation through a standing M0U.

Theresa Freed [00:05:41] Who are the eligible participants and what are eligible activities? And, most importantly, who do those funds serve in the community?

Viki Schmidt [00:05:50] Eligible applicants for funding under the Johnson County allocation are nonprofits, county departments and cities that belong to the consortium. Again, Overland Park, Shawnee and Lenexa have their own allocation and administration process. Eligible program participants are low- to moderate-income persons who need assistance as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergencies. Examples of this include public infrastructure projects and assistance in the form of rent, utility and food. A survey was conducted among agencies that serve the low- to moderate-income populations in Johnson County. And the results prioritized food and rent utility assistance as the greatest need.

Theresa Freed [00:06:30] So where can people get more information about that?

Viki Schmidt [00:06:32] The application will be posted online in the coming weeks and there will be a public comment period required by HUD to release the funds. For more information, please visit the Johnson County Web site. Community development is located at jocogov.org/dept/community-development/home. You can also e-mail your questions to [email protected].

Theresa Freed [00:07:03] And back to Maury. What other funding sources are there for businesses and communities struggling due to the pandemic?

Maury Thompson [00:07:09] Let me talk briefly about a couple of those. I previously mentioned PPP or Paycheck Protection Program for small business. This program provides small businesses with funds to pay up to eight weeks for payroll costs, including benefits. Funds can also be used to pay interest or mortgages, rent and utilities. The PPP authorized up to $349 billion toward job retention and certain other expenses. Small businesses and eligible nonprofit organizations, veterans organizations and tribal businesses described in the Small Business Act, as well as individuals who are self-employed and are independent contractors, are also eligible. The second program is the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Small business owners in all states and Washington, D.C. and territories are eligible to apply for economic injury disaster loan advance of up to ten thousand dollars. This advance will provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. This loan advance will not have to be repaid. This program is for any small business with fewer than 500 employees, including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and self-employed persons. Private nonprofit organizations and some veterans organizations are also eligible to apply if affected by COVID-19.

Theresa Freed [00:08:34] We've heard the governor express concerns about the long term budget impacts at the state level. Could we see some of that impact programs and services here at the county level?

Maury Thompson [00:08:43] The answer to that is yes. As I mentioned earlier, we're currently projecting a loss of twenty five million dollars this year alone, depending on the length of the financial impact of a pandemic, some level of revenue loss is being planned for 2021.

Theresa Freed [00:08:55] And finally, we have with us Johnson County Department of Health and Environment epidemiologist Elizabeth Holzschuh to talk about the latest efforts to track COVID-19 and stop the spread.

Elizabeth Holzschuh [00:09:05] This is a really critical piece of public health that we have been doing for decades. The idea behind contact tracing is interviewing an individual who is sick with a communicable disease or disease that transmits from person to person like coronavirus and finding out information about where they could have been exposed and who they could have exposed once they became sick with the virus. Once we gather all of this information from an individual, we then reach out to their contacts, the people that they could have exposed, and let them know that they are at risk of developing a coronavirus infection. We ask these individuals to stay home for 14 days so that they do not subsequently infect other individuals around them in their workplace and their church in their communities. We have been doing contact tracing since our first confirmed case of coronavirus back at the beginning of March. And we've been continuing to do this throughout our stay-at-home orders. But now that we're reopening our community and people are going to be out and about and around other individuals, we expect that our cases will increase going forward, which means that at Johnson County we have had to expand the numbers of individuals who can do this kind of work in order to be able to respond to the number of cases that we expect in the future. We have trained both internal staff as well as school nurse volunteers who have been working on our phone banks throughout this pandemic. These individuals will be the ones who are calling our residents when somebody's test positive for coronavirus, as well as working with our team of contact tracers to follow up on contacts. When somebody from the health department calls you, it is incredibly critical that you return their call or answer it. They're gonna ask you some very straightforward questions about your symptoms and your health and where you were before your infection started or before you became symptomatic, as well as who you may have exposed once your symptoms began. This information is held completely confidential, we are covered by HIPAA. And when our contact tracers call one of your contacts, that individual does not even know the identity of the person who is positive. So there's no risk of your identity being shared with other individuals in our community.

Theresa Freed [00:11:07] Get much more, including lots of data on our Web site at Jocogov.org/coronavirus.

Announcer [00:11:12] You just heard JoCo on the Go. Join us next time for more everything Johnson County. Have a topic you want to discuss, we want to hear from you. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter at JoCoGov. For more on this podcast, visit jocogov.org/podcast. Thanks for listening.