The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency launched the CARES Act funding application portal on Aug. 3.
County and municipality governments have until Oct. 15 to apply for reimbursement of coronavirus-related costs.
The Forrest County Board of Supervisors announced at their regular meeting on Monday that they currently have around $400,000 of qualified expenses. MEMA has allocated the county up to $972,000.
Board President David Hogan said he believes there are additional expenses that have not yet been identified.
“I feel like we’re leaving a lot on the table,” Hogan said. “We’re not getting reimbursed for a lot of things we need.”
The board discussed several of these potential qualifying expenses, including the construction of a legal library at the county jail.
The county is required to provide inmates with access to legal texts. Before COVID-19, the sheriff’s office transported inmates to the public library in Hattiesburg. The pandemic, however, made transportation and use of the library a health and safety concern.
The county jail’s new legal library is already under construction, but the expenses were not considered for CARES Act reimbursement until Hogan suggested the idea.
The board also looked at the possible qualification of the expense for a new, contactless ice dispenser at the Sheeplo Community Center in District 4.
The proposed dispenser, which would reduce the possibility of surface contamination spread, costs $6,052. Supervisors voted to table the purchase in favor of getting additional bids on the installation of dispensers at all 14 county community centers.
The board did decide to include $60,000 in debris removal expenses associated with increased home improvement projects by people remaining home during the shutdown.
Glenn Moore, Forrest County Emergency Management director, cautioned the board about including possibly ineligible expenses.
“Keep in mind that any time you have something rejected from MEMA it’s going to slow down everything getting paid,” said Moore. “If you’re not 100% sure of a good likelihood of (eligibility), you’re risking your whole project by throwing a questionable expense in there.”
Hogan, however, said he would prefer to ask for more and not risk leaving money unclaimed.
MEMA recently reimbursed the county for $1.2 million in expenses for the construction of 12 school storm shelters.
These funds were previously delayed, causing the board to voice significant concerns at the July 17 regular meeting about MEMA’s reliability and efficiency. Hogan, however, expressed that he appreciated the opportunity MEMA provided to build the shelters.
“Let me just say what a great program it’s been,” said Hogan. “For 12 of our area schools to have safe places to go during a tornado, even if it cost more than expected, I think is a great way to keep our children safe while they are in school.”