Montrose council approves DOLA COVID relief funds

Montrose City Council approved an agreement with the county to apply for federal COVID-19 relief funds at the June 16 regular city council meeting. The photo is from a Montrose City Council virtual meeting on May 15.

Montrose City Council approved a Memorandum of Understanding between the city and Montrose County for application for federal COVID-19 relief funds during the June 16 regular city council meeting.

The Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) is responsible for managing and distributing $219,120,000 in COVID-19 relief fund monies intended for Colorado counties and municipalities, with each county receiving an allocation based on their per capita population. The allocation for Montrose County is $3,668,055.

Counties and municipalities are required to collaborate to determine where to disburse the funds, and municipalities can then request reimbursement from DOLA for any eligible expenses.

“There were a couple counties that received direct funds from the U.S. Treasury. For the rest of the counties... the Treasury gave [the funds] to DOLA, who is allocating those based on population,” said City of Montrose Grant Coordinator Kendall Cramer. “This is the first step, we come to an agreement on how those funds will be distributed, then each individual [municipality] has to submit invoices and receipts directly to DOLA to be reimbursed.”

Eligible expenses include medical expenses related to COVID-19, public health expenses, payroll expenses for employees substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to COVID-19, expenses related to complying with public health measures, expenditures related to the provision of economic support in connection with COVID-19 and any other COVID-19 related expenses that are “reasonably necessary for the function of the government.”

According to Cramer, the city is looking for reimbursement primarily for supplies that were purchased for public health during the pandemic, such as hand sanitizer, face masks, disinfectants and portable toilets when the public restrooms were closed down, as well as payroll support for those who dedicated their roles substantially to the COVID-19 response.

According to the memo, “under the proposed Memorandum of Understanding, the city will be eligible to receive $1.1 million in reimbursement for COVID-19 related expenses for the period March 1, 2020, through December 30, 2020.” The rest of the funds will be distributed to Montrose County and the towns of Olathe, Nucla and Naturita.

Because the program also leaves room to reimburse expenses that may come up in the future due to the virus, it could prevent the budget from being altered once again in a second flare-up.

“It will reimburse those expenses that were unbudgeted for the City of Montrose, which is obviously a good thing for our taxpayers here,” said Cramer. “If there is another flare up of COVID and there’s expenses that have to be incurred, this program would reimburse those expenses.”

Cramer said that the guidance for what the funds can reimburse are not currently very straightforward, and that there may be room to reimburse money spent to support small businesses and housing during the pandemic. While that information is currently unknown, the reimbursement for funds spent on definite eligible expenses will allow taxpayer-funded projects to stay on track.

“Once the guidance is clarified, we'll have a better idea of that,” Cramer said. “It also reimburses those tax dollars that were spent on this virus, and so it brings back and recaptures those dollars that were lost through federal dollars, so those funds can be used again for their intended purpose.”

After the approval of the Memorandum of Understanding, the City of Montrose will next be applying for reimbursement of its pandemic-related expenses and asking for clarification on any other expenses that might also be eligible.

“Continue to follow the updates provided by the city, learn more about the program, and we will release the information on how it will best serve the community,” Cramer said.

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