Prairie Village has laid out more than $500,000 in COVID-19 relief expenses

Prairie Village has spent the money on COVID-19 testing, personal and other protective equipment, sanitation supplies, signage, information technology and equipment including video-conferencing equipment, and other related uses.

Legal services, sanitation supplies, COVID-19 testing and personal protective equipment are among the items Prairie Village has so far spent federal coronavirus relief dollars on.

The city has actually spent about $77,500 — a little over $30,000 of which was for legal services provided by Lathrop — and been reimbursed by Johnson County from COVID-19 relief funding allocated to it through the county. And on Wednesday, the county approved nearly $409,000 in additional expenditures Prairie Village wants to make, including $111,337 for video-conferencing equipment for council chambers and a multipurpose room. Installation of the equipment has been scheduled but not yet paid for.

Lathrop provided a variety of pandemic-related legal services, including reviews of the state’s and the city’s emergency declarations, and the city council’s policy to allow public meetings to be conducted remotely, Prairie Village Finance Director Lisa Santa Maria said.

Johnson County earmarked about $689,200 for Prairie Village, based on its population, for expenditures made from March 30 through December 30 of this year. The city has nearly $202,750 remaining in unallocated grant funds.

The city council at its Nov. 2 meeting unanimously approved a grant agreement with the county and reaffirmed the city’s expenditures as of that date. The city has also spent the money on other protective equipment, signage, information technology and equipment, and other related uses. A full itemized list of the expenditures is available on the city’s website (p. 32 of council documents for the Nov. 2 meeting).

Johnson County received about $116 million of the $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus relief money the state received. Johnson and Sedgwick Counties together received more than $200 million of the federal funds. The state gave Johnson County another $8 million, for a total of $124 million for coronavirus relief.

Prairie Village has approved expenditures for more than half a million dollars in COVID-19 relief funding allocated to it through Johnson County, and the city has so far been reimbursed for nearly $61,000 of those expenditures. Reimbursements on the remaining $472,700 it has spent are being processed, according to city documents.

How COVID-19 funds can and can’t be spent

Kansas started spending its federal coronavirus relief money in June, though state leaders disagreed largely along party lines about where the initial funds were most needed. Gov. Laura Kelly and legislative leaders on the State Finance Council targeted local governments for the first $400 million for health care. That money went to county health departments and was used for protective equipment and other coronavirus-related costs.

Kelly’s administration initially directed where the money would go, but after disagreements about executive orders during the worst of the pandemic’s first wave, Kelly and lawmakers reached a compromise. Kelly’s office drafts proposals and the State Finance Council, which she is part of, approves final spending plans.

Six main COVID-19 related expense categories eligible for reimbursement by federal rules and the types of expenses they include are:

  • Medical expenses (public hospitals and clinics; temporary medical facilities and other treatment measures; testing; medical response expenses; and telemedicine)
  • Public health expenses (communications and governmental enforcement of public health orders; acquisition and distribution of medical and protective supplies; sanitation of public and other facilities; technological assistance for local authorities or others for public safety; and quarantining individuals)
  • Payroll expenses for public safety and public health employees
  • Facilitation of compliance with public health measures related to COVID-19 (food delivery to vulnerable residents, including senior citizens and others; distance learning, including technological improvements related to school closings; improved telework capabilities for public employees; paid sick and family medical leave for public employees; maintenance of state prisons and county jails regarding social distancing and sanitation; and care for homeless populations)
  • Economic support (grants for small businesses required to close; government payroll support for employees who work to mitigate or otherwise respond to the pandemic; and unemployment insurance costs not otherwise covered by the federal government
  • Any other reasonable governmental expenses related to COVID-19 that meet eligibility requirements

Ineligible expenses include:

  • Replacement of government revenue shortfalls for expenses that would not qualify under state statute
  • The state’s Medicaid share
  • Insurance-covered damages
  • Payroll or benefits for employees whose work is not substantially related to the pandemic
  • Expenses that have been or will be reimbursed under any federal program
  • Donor reimbursement
  • Workforce bonuses other than hazard or overtime pay
  • Severance pay
  • Legal settlements

Overland Park raised eyebrows last month when it planned to spend COVID-19 relief funds on video equipment to broadcast games played at the Scheels Soccer Complex. The city has since reversed its decision.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of the headline for this story said that Prairie Village had already spent more than $500,000 in COVID relief funds. In fact, not all that money has been spent, but the expenditures have been approved.