50 Missouri health agencies have yet to receive federal aid, including in Boone County

1 month 3 weeks 10 minutes ago Tuesday, August 04 2020 Aug 4, 2020 Tuesday, August 04, 2020 11:14:14 AM CDT August 04, 2020 in News
Source: Columbia Missourian
By: The Associated Press and Columbia Missourian

KANSAS CITY (AP) — Health departments in at least 50 Missouri counties have not received any money from the federal government even though the state received hundreds of millions of dollars in early May.

Local public health agencies across the state are trying to ramp up testing and contact tracing but say their hands are tied because the state has not delivered any federal aid. According to The Kansas City Star, the money was instead given to their local county commissions and in many places have held up the money.

In Boone County, the local health agency asked for funding but has not received it, according to a survey the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services sent to local agencies in mid-July.

In the mid-Missouri region, Callaway, Howard and Cole counties did not respond to the survey; Moniteau, Randolph and Cooper counties had not received funding they requested; and Audrain County did not ask for funding.

Only 16 counties in the state had local agencies that asked for and received funding. Those closest to Boone County include Morgan, Camden and Pettis counties.

In the past two weeks, Missouri had the second-highest rate of new coronavirus cases in the country, second only to Connecticut, according to the COVID Exit Strategy.

Delays have continued for months since the CARES Act, a $2.2 trillion stimulus package approved by President Donald Trump in late March, funneled about $2.4 billion to Missouri, with $527 million going to local governments, according to the Missouri State Treasurer’s Office.

Bert Malone, a member of the Missouri Public Health Association, said it was frustrating that money was allocated to county commissions, which in some cases have been in conflict with their health departments. It appears some commissions have made their decisions based on politics than on public health, he said.

Malone said it was “ridiculous” that six months into the pandemic, some agencies have only recently began hiring contact tracers. Gov. Mike Parson emphasized the importance of contact tracing and said the work depends on local public health agencies.

Randall Williams, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, defended the decision to allocate funds through county governments.

“The county commissioners are the holistic governor of their county, and there are other needs other than public health — we certainly recognize that — around COVID-19 funding,” Williams said.

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