Pitkin County pandemic expenses increase to more than $10 million | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County pandemic expenses increase to more than $10 million

Pitkin County commissioners Wednesday approved more than $3 million in additional funding for local COVID-related projects, grants and vaccinations.

The additional money came in the form of supplemental budget requests for the first quarter of the year and increases the amount the county has spent on addressing the COVID-19 pandemic to more than $10 million since it began a little more than a year ago.

The latest funding — a little more than $3.2 million — took the form of $1.3 million in grants to local businesses negatively affected by the pandemic, $400,000 in grants to local nonprofits suffering the same fate and $750,000 to pay for vaccination clinics at the Benedict Music Tent parking lot, according to a memo to commissioners from budget director Connie Baker.

Other parts of the latest money went toward funding the 5 Star State Certification Program for local businesses, other consumer protection efforts, adding to the county’s contact tracing staff and setting up communication strategies for non-English speakers and a COVID hotline, according to the memo.

Much of the newly allocated money is likely to be recouped, however.

First, FEMA is expected to reimburse Pitkin County the $750,000 for the vaccination clinics, Baker said. In addition, the county likely will receive more than $3 million from the federal government through the state as a result of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act recently passed by Congress, she said.

The exact amount the county will receive from that allocation is not yet certain, and Baker said Wednesday she’s heard it could be $3.2 million to $3.4 million.

As of December, Pitkin County had spent about $7 million on COVID-related expenses, including $2 million in direct economic assistance to residents. Much of the rest went toward beefing up the public health staff.

The county received a total of $4.3 million from the CARES Act, which was passed last year under former President Donald Trump.

The newly allocated money comes as cases of the virus are rising locally.

State public health officials moved Pitkin County to Orange level restrictions Wednesday morning because of increasing COVID-19 case numbers and increasing positivity rates. Contact tracers on the public health staff have been working overtime in part because of the rising numbers, but also because of more work that has gone into tracking the appearance of COVID-19 variants locally, said Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock on Tuesday.

As of Wednesday, the county had confirmed 10 cases of the California variant, six cases of the U.K. variant and one case of a variant first detected in New York and New Jersey, according to local epidemiological data.

Test results confirming the presence of variants often takes time, which adds to the work contract tracers must put in once a case variant is confirmed, Peacock said.

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