At its regular meeting on Wednesday, Monroe County commissioners approved a reconfiguration and an extension into next year, of a program under which it has already approved distribution of $238,880 to businesses or social service agencies and $85,713 to other taxing units. The distributions were for reimbursements related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Wednesday, commissioners also got an update from township trustees on the status of a $200,000 allocation that has been made to the county’s townships, to help with the amount of township assistance that is being requested by residents for help in paying for rent, utilities and food. Requests have increased because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The township assistance grant is being allocated to the Monroe County Trustees Association in $25,000 increments, based on how much assistance is needed.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Washington Township trustee Barb Ooley told commissioners that out of the first $50,000, all but $73.10 of assistance had been awarded to residents. During the meeting, Ooley made arrangements with commissioners administrator Angie Purdie for the next installment, because the need between now and the end of the year is expected to be critical.
As Ooley put it: “December is not an easy month.”
Monroe County’s CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) reimbursement program had originally called for applications to end on Nov. 30, with a cap of $20,000 per awardee. The cap in the new policy approved by commissioners on Wednesday, has been increased to $30,000 per awardee.
The new policy, approved by commissioners on Wednesday, also has a different funding mechanism, which goes directly through the county, instead of getting forwarded to the state for reimbursement. The county was awarded a $4.7 million allocation from the federal CARES Act, which is the ultimate basis for both the old and the new program.
Based on discussion at a Thanksgiving-week county council meeting and Wednesday’s meeting of county commissioners, the state of Indiana did not want to process paperwork for each individual claim submitted by the county for a business or social services agency.
Instead, the state is reimbursing Monroe County for public safety payroll and other expenses. That reimbursement then goes into the county general fund. At its Nov. 10 meeting, the county council created a special line item for that money, out of which business and social services reimbursements can be made for “COVID‐19 Emergency Supplies” and “COVID‐19 Emergency Contractual.” The two lines together total $2.25 million.
The provision of assistance to residents for rent, utilities, food and other expenses is an ordinary part of the function of township government.
Everyone lives in a township, even people who live inside the city limits. It’s a point that county commissioner Julie Thomas typically makes when she announces the availability of assistance, on application to the office of a township trustee.
As she put it on Wednesday, “You have a township trustee, whether you live in a city, a town or in the rural areas. So please contact them as soon as possible.”
Earlier during the COVID-19 pandemic, township trustees anticipated a greater need for townships to provide assistance. County commissioners decided in late June to make a $100,000 grant available to the Monroe County Trustees Association to help townships with their role in providing assistance to those in need.
On Wednesday Barb Ooley, on behalf of the other township trustees, told commissioners that the next $25,000 of their grant would be needed. Two weeks ago, commissioners had bumped the amount in the interlocal agreement with the MCTA up to $200,000.
So when it came to sorting out the details for getting the next $25,000 check cut, the policy decision had already been made.
Thomas encouraged residents who are in need to contact their township trustee: “And we know that there are a lot of stresses and strains on residents, budgets for rents and utilities and the necessities of life. And if you’re in that position, please reach out to your township trustee.”