Recently, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis moved to hold out $275 million for counties for COVID related relief. Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) then broke that out as a per capita share and Las Animas was awarded $1.244 million.
Before cities within the county could opt in to receive these relief funds, each county had to put in place a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with each incorporated city within it’s boundaries, Trinidad being one of them.
Following the passage of the MOU at the county level at the Commissioner’s last meeting, it was then brought before Trinidad City Council at a special meeting where City Manager Mike Valentine explained it was important to move quickly on this to be eligible to access the funds before the cutoff date.
“The reason we’re doing this so quickly and having a special meeting to consider this after is because the deadline is July 7 to opt in,” said Valentine. “Otherwise, you forfeit. So that being said, our share of the overall is $510,694.”
These funds would be able to be used for COVID related expenses that the city had incurred that it had not originally budgeted for such as bringing in extra personnel, purchasing cleaning supplies and disinfectants, or changing operations.
Valentine also explained that in order for the city to opt into the DOLA funds, each county has to have a memorandum of understanding or a cooperation agreement with the city to move forward.
The county modeled the MOU after other counties within the state that have already gone through the process Valentine explained. Fifty-five percent of the total funds would be allocated to the county and 45 percent split up for the municipalities within the county. The reasoning behind this was said to be because the county services all the residents of the cities.
“A lot of the services they provide, they provide for the entire county,” said Valentine.
Once the discussion was open to the rest of council, Councilmember Ogletree said she’d like to have a better sense of what the county was planning to do with the other $685,000.
“I get that they are the ones who are covering all the bases but I’m just curious what justification they’re going to put out there for that,” said Ogletree. “As far as I know, they don’t have a financial incentive program that they’re doing for businesses in the county. And I don’t know what county businesses have been closed down due to COVID.”
Valentine said their guidance lists several possibilities from food distribution to public safety. He also said that for both cities as well as the county, any funds that aren’t used would go back into a reserve pool for everybody to continue submitting to. The window of opportunity to use these funds runs from March until December 31.
Additionally, the money could be used to address economic support provided to those suffering from employment loss or business interruptions.
“What we did to help out the community may be reimbursable,” said Valentine. “Should that be the case, it’s up to council how we use those funds but one of the things that’s been kicked around is turn around and help people even more, or take it and put it back where it was taken from for projects and such.”
Valentine later added that the guidelines for eligibility actually stated that if the expense was incurred to providing economic support for those suffering from employment or business center interruptions related to business closures that it was eligible for reimbursement.
Council members are expected to look more at the MOU and make a formal approval at their next regular council meeting on Tuesday, June 30.