Carter County Commission cautiously accepts $9 million in federal aid
The Carter County Commission has accepted millions of dollars in federal aid in response to the coronavirus pandemic but commissioners want clearer guidance before committing the money to specific projects. Commissioners on Monday approved more than $9 million but may not know just how to spend it until later this year.
“We don’t want to do something we aren’t supposed to or shouldn’t, so we’re basically in a holding pattern on how this money can be utilized,” said Commissioner Jerry Alvord.
Congress in March approved the $1.9 trillion aid package that most notably provided direct payments of up to $1,400 to most Americans. Also included in the package, known as the American Rescue Plan, is about $350 billion for state, local and tribal governments, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
More than $65 billion will go directly to county governments across the country. Oklahoma counties will receive more than $768 million in aid from the recent Congressional aid package, according to the National Association of Counties. The package follows five earlier virus bills totaling about $4 trillion that Congress has enacted since last spring.
Unlike previous coronavirus aid packages approved by Congress, the latest round of money coming to Carter County will not be distributed by any state agencies.
“Unlike before, this comes to us straight from the federal government and not through the state,” Alvord told commissioners.
Counties across the country have similar questions about how the recent round of federal aid can be spent, Alvord said. Commissioners could have to wait until later in the fall before more guidance is available from the state attorney general and state auditor.
Instead of simply sitting on the funds, Alvord said the commission has received clarification that money can be deposited into an interest-bearing account until more guidance is available.
“A lot of these monies are directed toward social services. That’s all great, but the county facilities are not created to manage social services. We don’t have a department that deals with social services so it’s a little bit of a concern to us and we want to be cautious,” said Alvord.
In other business, the commission on Monday:
- Tabled two plat maps until ownership details are clarified;
- Approved assistance for county redistricting;
- Approved agreements for IT systems and services at the county assessor and clerk offices;
- Tabled a detention transportation agreement until more details are available;
- Approved a $500 donation for canine needs for the sheriff’s department;
- Declared a sheriff’s department vehicle surplus for trade;
- Approved county payroll, requisitions and purchase orders.