Unused grant money set to expire; funds would be claimed for payroll

By Kellen Olshefski

With time ticking toward the Nov. 6 deadline to claim funds available to Walworth County in COVID-19 grants, the finance committee was recently preparing to file claims for public health and sheriff’s office payroll costs to use up the remaining money.

According to Finance Director Jessica Conley, the county’s last opportunity to spend under the Wisconsin Department of Administration’s Routes to Recovery grant was Nov. 6 and the county still has roughly $700,000 to spend.

At the Oct. 22 finance committee meeting, Conley said during a virtual session with the DOA through the Wisconsin Counties Association, she and County Administrator Mark Luberda were informed that a number of the counties doing well in spending down their funding allocation are claiming payroll costs for their public health and sheriff’s office.

According to Conley, while it used to be that exact records needed to be kept on all employees with “COVID” time – something she said the county has done well – the state has since loosened the rules.

“They’re opening it up a little bit more to say, the sheriff’s office has a lot of calls that they’re going on, things that are changing that was COVID related, but maybe not COVID related that you really counted that as being time that you were tracking,” she said.

Conley said that as such, the state is asking them to go back and look at those types of instances so it can file claims accordingly in order to receive the funds.

“That will help the budget of the sheriff’s office in that they had funds available to pay their payroll costs, but we’d be able to use that money, then, for other COVID purposes,” she said.

Luberda, who said he’s been pushing the governor’s office to resolve the issue of the deadline, said his understanding is that the federal government has made it so those frontline responder costs can be presumed qualified without having to submit documentation as to specifically what they did.

“He said, so use that, get the money under the presumption, and then reprogram the savings that you would have internally from that to these other things that might happen after Nov. 6,” Luberda said.

“We had been reticent to do that, because it’s difficult to document all of that, but they’ve emphasized that we don’t have to worry about the specific documentation, as long as we believe that they’re actually engaged in efforts that impact COVID or are driven by COVID,” he added.

“The end result is, between now and the end of the year, you could see some additional budget modifications have to come through, because the money landing in one pile frees up something where we may have to use it somewhere else,” Luberda said.

He said it’s a positive result, noting that while he and Conley prefer to be more specific, they were given clear instructions from the state to take advantage of the presumption to make sure Walworth County receives its full allocation through the Routes to Recovery funding.


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