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Douglas County Board spends $41 million in CARES Act money

Posted at 6:19 PM, Jun 23, 2020

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Douglas County Board has $166 million to spend from the CARES Act.

On Tuesday they began to do just that, spending the money on things that may need it the most.

That includes the county health department, which has obvious COVID-19 related expenses.

The county board started by approving around $13.5 million in money for the health department.

Director Dr. Adi Pour says vaccines are coming quicker than we think, so over $6 million is going to vaccine preparation.

“It would mean all hands on deck. We wouldn’t do nothing else for about six weeks until we have vaccinated all individuals that would want to be vaccinated,” says Pour.

That decision was universal.

Contention then grew as the board looked to pass nearly $18 million in money for the Douglas County Health Center and the county jail.

The health center had a COVID-19 outbreak, with six deaths, and the board is looking to divide the front entrance, put in safer appliances and improving air flow in the aging building.

“Working with the air handling system is to me a real good thing that we have already demonstrated the need for and now to be able to do it on a permanent basis and make the whole facility safer,” says Clare Duda, board chair.

The lone no vote on that was from Mike Boyle. He wasn’t against the project, but wants the CARES Act money going to items like rent assistance.

“These are things we should be doing anyway, and they should go through a regular process. I don’t know if these jump out as COVID-related in my book,” says Boyle.

But the rest of the board decided the money would be put to good use upgrading the aging building.

“These are residents, these are our people. These are the most vulnerable,” says Mary Ann Borgeson.

Then the board set aside $10 million for what Boyle wanted, rent assistance to those struggling during the pandemic.

“We need to do something to get money in people’s pockets as soon as possible, people who’ve been out of work now, for up to three months and are in need of our help,” says county commissioner Jim Cavanaugh.

Cavanaugh wanted to immediately pass $1 million right away.

But instead the board opted to put the money aside so they could make qualifications on who gets the rent money.

“I would ask, what’s our criteria that we’re going to use?” says Borgeson.

That exact criteria will be determined in a committee hearing later this week.

The county spent about $41 million of its $166 million Tuesday.

The county will also be using the money to directly help cities like Omaha and Ralston, who are suffering from lost revenue.