When Audrain County received nearly $3 million in Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act funding, the county commission had to determine how to distribute the funds based on vague federal guidance.

After six weeks of working through all of the details, the commission is entering its first phase of fund distribution.

"This is for [expenses] that already have been spent or are in the process of being spent," Presiding Commissioner Steve Hobbs said. "When you get a one page definition of it, it took us a while working with various agencies to figure out what is eligible, what is not. We wanted to make sure when we rolled it out it was correct."

Audrain, like other Missouri counties, has to make sure any funds are spent specifically on COVID-19 expenses or risk having to pay the money back.

Guidance was issued from the U.S. Treasury Department May 4, which then was updated May 28. Conflicting guidance made it difficult to determine how to distribute the money. Missouri received $2.3 billion in relief bill funding, with only one-quarter of that going to the counties.

The first phase allocates $950,000 of the $2.97 million payment to local governments, nonprofits and businesses that submit a funding application by July 30, according to a news release. The Audrain County Commission will distribute the funds as it receives applications, as long as they include all the required documentation.

"This Phase 1 is primarily for reimbursements for expenses made to fight COVID," Eastern District Commissioner Alan Winders said. "There will be other phases."

So businesses in town that put up sneeze guards, he gave as an example, could apply for reimbursement funds. Those businesses would have to submit receipts, provide photos of the guards in use and certify it has not already received a reimbursement, Winders said.

"I don’t see any reason to wait longer than necessary to process the applications," he said.

The commission has worked since late April to identify community priorities and develop its application process for requests of relief bill funds, according to the release. Applications include copies of invoices, receipts and other proof of payment.

Other counties are conducting a similar application process, Hobbs said.

Applications for the first round are available at the Audrain County Clerk’s office in the Audrain County Courthouse, Mexico Area Chamber of Commerce, Mexico City Hall and Vandalia City Hall. Applications will be reviewed for completeness, including supporting documentation and compliance with CARES Act requirements and Treasury guidance.

Reimbursements must apply to expenditures that were not already part of an organization’s budget as of March 27 and where expenses were incurred starting from March 1 through June 30.

Those with questions can email CARES@audraincounty.org or call 573-473-5822. Questions also can be directed to the Mexico chamber, by calling 573-581-2765.

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