Council approves up to $600,000 for COVID-19 relief programs

By Chris Mannara
Staff Writer

The Pagosa Springs Town Council authorized the expenditure of funds up to $600,000 from the general fund for more assistance programs related to the coronavirus pandemic at a regular meeting on Aug. 20.

Both Archuleta County and the town have received relief funds through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, according to Town Manager Andrea Phillips.

About $1.2 million came to Archuleta County, Phillips noted.

“It’s reimbursement only, so there are some restrictions on it. The town and county adopted an IGA [intergovernmental agreement] where we’re going to share 50-50 in that allotment,” Phillips said.

To date, the town has spent about $184,907 on items that it is planning to submit to the Department of Local Affairs for reimbursement, according to Phillips.

Agenda documentation notes that the town’s potential reimbursement allotment is $601,753.50.

In a follow-up email, Phillips confirmed that the town has up to $600,000 that it can request for eligible items. So far, the town has incurred expenses of about $185,000 that it believes are eligible under the program, leaving $415,000 left that the town could ask for.

According to Phillips during the meeting, the town is still looking to implement more programs to assist with the pandemic.

The town is looking to put $50,000 toward various food banks that are helping people who have been impacted by COVID-19, according to Phillips.

Additionally, the town could assist Archuleta School District (ASD) in providing students with their own supplies as students transition away from communal supplies for classes such as art, Phillips noted.

“This is definitely tied to COVID and this could be a way that we could assist the school district,” she said.

According to Phillips, a $50,000 placeholder has been put in place to approach a local Internet service provider to see if the town could help subsidize the cost for families who have struggles connecting to the Internet for their kids’ distance learning.

This would be mostly for families who qualify for the free and reduced lunch program through ASD, Phillips noted.

The town will also see additional expenditures through the remainder of the year to upgrade technology equipment to provide better access to online meetings for the public, she added.

Additionally, the town will look to spend about $10,000 to purchase masks and hand sanitizer for the community, Phillips explained.

A business transition program worth $50,000 is also something the town is considering, Phillips explained.

Restaurants and businesses have had to reduce the number of tables that they can serve due to the pandemic and social distancing recommendations, Phillips explained, adding that the business transition program would help.

One item that Phillips was not sure if it would be an eligible expense is assisting the hospital district, which could cost about $100,000 each from both the town and county.

“As you know, the hospital is in need of upgrading its oxygen delivery system within the hospital. They do have limited capability currently to provide oxygen for people, but it is not piped into the building like it would be at other hospitals,” Phillips said. 

Another program would be an assistance program for nonprofits that could cost about $45,000, Phillips noted.

According to Phillips, the town was seeking more feedback from town council and an authorization of expenditure because these items are unbudgeted expenditures.

Council member Shari Pierce noted that she wants to make sure that the business assistance program also be directed toward any business and not just restaurants, highlighting retail establishments as an example.

According to Phillips, if council were to approve an authorization of expenditure up to $600,000, that money can be moved around the various programs.

“The challenging thing about it is, we have to spend it at the end of the year. So we’ve got to quickly deploy it and kind of make up the programs as we’re going along,” Phillips said. “We can certainly rearrange things in there based on need.”

Following more discussion, council member Madeline Bergon made a motion to authorize the expenditure of up to $600,000 for reimbursable expenditures related to COVID-19 for the programs discussed.

That motion was approved unanimously by the council.

This story was posted on September 2, 2020.