County tables request from
By Rhett Wilkinson
MANTI—The Sanpete County Commission tabled a request last week from leaders of the Ephraim and North Sanpete ambulance associations for $750,000 from money the county has received or expects to receive under the CARES Act.
CARES stands for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security. The act, which was passed by Congress and signed by the president in late March, includes funding for local governments, mainly for expenses growing out of the coronavirus pandemic.
At the meeting Tuesday, Oct. 6, Commission Chairman Scott Bartholomew directed Christi Johnson of the Ephraim association and Bryan Bench of the North Sanpete group, to Kevin Christensen, Sanpete County economic development director.
As of Oct, 13, the county had received $2.08 million out of a potential $3.1 million. So far, the county has spent about $20,000 on sneeze guards and remodeling some of the counters in the county courthouse.
At this point, the county commission has directed much of the rest of the money into a program, administered by Christensen, called the “Sanpete COVID-19 Business Grant Program” for grants to businesses that have been impacted by the pandemic.
Businesses have to document that their revenues from March through August 2020, were down significantly from the same period in 2019 due to the coronavirus.
Christensen said about 30 businesses have applied. He said at this point, there is no dollar minimum or maximum on the grants.
Christensen said since the county commission meeting he had talked to representatives from two ambulance associations, but he didn’t say which ones.
Applications are still being accepted for the grants. But Christensen said the county commission will need to review the applications and award funding soon, because there is a deadline in November when the county must report to the state on how CARES money received so far has been spent.
At the Oct 6 meeting, Johnson told the commissioners “We feel that we are on the front lines with the COVID response.”
“This money is out there,” Bench added.
Johnson and Bench said they know a request for $750,000 looks like a big ask. But, Johnson said, funding from the county would be a “show of support for a system that you do not fund.”
Johnson said her ambulance association had received an application from the county for the business grant program. But she said the program seemed to be targeted to businesses, not health care organizations.
Lyon, the county auditor who was at the meeting, spoke up and said sending the ambulance associations to Christensen wasn’t necessary.
“They don’t have to go through Kevin’s grant program because they are healthcare professionals,” Lyon said.
Bartholomew asked Lyons where the associations could get the CARES funding.
“From the county,” Lyon said.
Commissioner Edwin Sunderland said the commissioners’ understanding was that all funding to non-county entities would come from the business grant program.
But Lyons stressed the program was “a business grant program. And that’s Kevin’s understanding as well,” she said.
Ephraim City Mayor John Scott, who was also at the meeting said that as the mayor of Ephraim, he had seen the “real crunch” that the ambulance associations are under right now.
“They need another ambulance. They need the equipment that the CARES money can provide,” Scott said. “They are transporting constantly,” and have one ambulance dedicated to COVID-19, he said.
Bartholomew replied that what he expected to the mayor to say was that Ephraim City would be providing its COVID money to the Ephraim Ambulance Association. Scott’s reply was that the city needed the county’s help.
The commission appreciates what the associations do, Bartholomew said, noting it would be “horrible” to make a 911 call and have no one respond.
Commissioner Steve Lund said he did not doubt it is a “big need” but wanted to see how much CARES the county will have after responding to other requests.
Following the meeting, Scott told the Messenger, “The county has the opportunity, and they are looking for ways to use the CARES Act money.”
He noted that language in the law steers counties and municipalities, which are receiving the funds, away from certain purposes, like being used as a normal budget.
“This would be an item that would be so essential to our county,” Scott said. “So this is a perfect opportunity to help out those providers with additional equipment and in this case, additional ambulances.”
Bartholomew got up from his commission seat as Johnson and Bench were about to leave the commission room. A Sanpete Messenger reporter clearly heard him admonishing them, “Don’t talk to the newspaper.”