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Lewis & Clark Public Health to receive $218K for COVID-19 response

Posted at 4:59 PM, May 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-27 14:28:14-04

HELENA — Lewis and Clark Public Health is set to receive more than $200,000 through the federal CARES Act, to help cover the costs of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this month, Gov. Steve Bullock announced Montana would allocate $5 million of its CARES Act funding for emergency grants to public health organizations. Lewis and Clark Public Health is one of dozens of agencies that applied, and they were awarded $218,797.

Lewis and Clark County leaders discussed the funding Tuesday morning during a county commission meeting.

County health officer Drenda Niemann told the commission her agency has 22 staff members working almost exclusively on the coronavirus, with efforts like enforcing public health restrictions, monitoring those who test positive and doing contact tracing. She said they spent more than $108,000 on COVID-related expenses in March and April alone.

Niemann said they paid their initial costs through emergency reserves and a federal grant. This round of funding will let them continue their expanded efforts.

“We anticipate crisis operations for months to come,” said Niemann.

Commissioners said Lewis and Clark Public Health will continue to play an important role going forward, especially as county agencies try to find safe ways to continue or resume their services.

“It is very important that, as we’re maybe at this little bit of a lull, we should not lull ourselves to sleep and not pay attention, and realize that this COVID pandemic is far from over and that we need to make plans prospectively,” said Commissioner Susan Good Geise.

While most of this funding will go toward personnel costs related to COVID-19 operations, Niemann said – if any is left over once they return to normal business – some could also be used to help cover lost revenue. She estimates Lewis and Clark Public Health has lost about $17,000 in income compared to last year at the same time. That money comes from immunization clinics, licensed establishment reviews and other services that have had to be canceled.