Details to come on virus relief money for Ellis County

Margaret Allen
Hays Daily News
Ellis County is awaiting word on how much money the local area will get from President Biden's $3 trillion stimulus.

Ellis County may get $5.6 million of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus money, while Hays could capture $2 million to $3 million, according to early estimates heard by Darin Myers, Ellis County administrator.

“We’ll be getting money, we just don’t know when, or how much,” Myers said Tuesday.

The money is being passed through from the feds to each state. Kansas will then pass its share through to Ellis County and each of the cities in the county.

Additional money is reserved separately for schools, and for businesses, but Myers said he hasn’t heard what those amounts might be in Ellis County.

Unlike the last federal CARES Act stimulus package under President Donald Trump, this package from President Biden’s administration won’t have to be spent quite so fast.

Myers said the county will have until the end of 2024 to spend the money.

Awaiting details

A ZOOM call about the money was hosted two weeks ago by the Kansas Department of Administration, the Kansas League of Municipalities and the Kansas Association of Counties.

At that time, local officials from around the state were given some information about the Biden stimulus. But Myers said Ellis County and others are waiting now for more state guidance based on the federal law to understand how exactly the money can be spent and when it will arrive. 

“It was basically a kick-off meeting to start planning,” Myers said, with only some initial guidance on allowable expenditures. “It’s so wide range as to what may be in there … Last time there were dozens and dozens of pages of explanations of allowable expenditures.”

The state, he said, is preparing more details. Myers heard that 50% of the money could arrive in as soon as 60 days.

“If you remember last time, we were on a very short timeframe, which did not help the process at all,” he said. “As you know, COVID is not gone yet, we still have COVID related expenditures, but we had to expend all that money by the end of last year, which we did, to the penny.”

Who gets it?

“There’s a lot more to this package than any previous package,” Myers said.

There will be a lot more opportunities for businesses to apply for grants, separate from what the county gets, he noted.

K-12 and higher education are getting more money this round than all the other rounds combined, he said.

And Hays, Ellis, Victoria and Schoenchen will each get their own money this time, rather than make requests from Ellis County.

Myers said he’s had individual conversations about the money with the Ellis County commissioners, who are just beginning the budget making process for next year.

“We’ve basically got to the point where we’re just trying to get a list of ideas, or I’ve told staff to get a list of ideas,” Myers said. “There’s really no reason to have any conversations at this point when we don’t fully know what will be allowable expenditures or not.”

Ellis County in 2020 received $5.74 million from President Trump's COVID-19 relief package. That money was shared between the county, its cities, schools, nonprofits and local businesses.