County allocates COVID relief money to local agencies

By John Finefrock
Staff Writer

On Tuesday, the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) allotted $29,500 to the county’s Department of Human Services (DHS) and about $5,000 to Archuleta School District, both monies coming from the $601,750 the county received from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The money for the school district will boost the wireless Internet signal at the elementary school and the high school.

“This Proposal would place a high power Meraki outdoor Access Point at the Elementary School and Middle School Campuses to allow for students who don’t have adequate Internet at home to get high speed Internet from a socially distanced location surrounding these two campuses. This is the same equipment that was put in by the school at the High School campus this Spring and it has worked very well there,” the BoCC’s agenda item on the topic reads.

The funding for DHS will be to help “vulnerable populations” in the community, according to the BoCC agenda.

“Essentially, I asked specifically for a portion of the funds to allow DHS to have some financial capacity to support community members who may not ‘fit’ other program benefit requirements,” wrote Archuleta County DHS Director Matthew Dodson in an email to The SUN.

 According to the BoCC agenda brief on the topic, Dodson’s request includes:

• $8,000 for augmenting existing county rent, mortgage, utilities and general assistance programs.

• $11,000 for hotel/motel vouchers for people experiencing homelessness and/or requiring shelter due to a COVID-related experience.

• $2,000 for support to foster care/kinship providers with children in placement by DHS to increase telephone or virtual capabilities for completing visits with family of origin, telehealth providers or therapy.

“I also asked for a small amount (if needed) to support overtime which is anticipated to be needed when the ‘surge’ in workload occurs this fall. The surge is anticipated to hit our SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] and Medicaid programs as there were a number of Federal and State Waivers put in place which extended or increased the benefit in these programs during COVID, these waivers served many but also have created implications related to when redetermination of benefits will hit our county departments and workforce,” wrote Dodson.

San Juan Basin Public Health request

On Aug. 18, San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH), Archuleta County’s health department, requested about $150,000 from the county’s allotment of CARES money.

County commissioners Ron Maez and Steve Wadley told The SUN this week that the Archuleta County Finance Department is reviewing the request to make sure it complies with somewhat strict guidelines for using the money, and that they expect the BoCC to consider the request at some point.

In an interview Wednesday, County Administrator Scott Wall explained that Pagosa Springs Medical Center and Archuleta School District are expected to make additional asks for some of the CARES money, but estimated “there would be enough to go around” for SJBPH’s request.

This story was posted on September 8, 2020.