COVID response cost Denison $3.15M expense

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
The city of Denison has categorized more than $3.15 million as COVID-related expenses for 2020. The city is waiting to see if more funds will be made available to communities to help offset these expenses.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been costly for many people as it has affected everything from employment to healthcare costs and physical well being. Cities and municipalities across the country are also reeling from the impacts, which total in the millions for many communities.

Denison spent more than $3.15 million in its efforts to combat and prevent the spread of the pandemic in 2020, officials have said.

The information came as a part of an update to the funding that the city received as a part of the CARES Act aimed at softening the blow from the pandemic. As a part of the act, Denison was allocated $1.4 million to offset the city's expenses related to the pandemic.

"We submitted more than enough to justify our $1.4 million to get our $1.4 million sent to us," Denison Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Kimberly Bowen said last week.

Bowen was tasked last year with overseeing the CARES Act funding for the city and submitting and documenting expenses related to pandemic response. 

"At the onset of the public health emergency, staff implemented mitigation efforts to ensure the best protocols and measures were put into place at the most appropriate time," Bowen said.

The majority of the city's expense came in the form of payroll and manpower, with $2.91 million in expenses. It was not immediately clear if these expenses were just first responders and heath-related positions or if this included administrative costs related to city response.

Other expenses related to equipment or facility upgrades related to infection prevention. Doors on some city facilities, including the senior center, were upgraded to include touch-less entry. A funds were also used to purchase a walk-in freezer for Meal on Wheels in addition to new UV sanitation equipment.

Meanwhile, laptops and mobile internet hotspots allowed employees to continue working from home. The city also used these funds to partner with the Denison Independent School District of a 25 percent matching grant for laptops and hotspots for students who were studying remotely.

Denison ISD worked with the city to get laptops and hotspot access to students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city was allowed to allocate up to 25 percent of its $1.4 million for other expenses and programs related to community and individual assistance. However, the city fell short of meeting that 25 percent cap.

The city partnered with multiple community and groups and churches who already operated assistance programs to help coordinate and facilitate this assistance. The city ultimately was able to distribute $75,000 in assistance through these community partners, with the Salvation Army making up the largest percentage with $30,000.

This has left the city with $1.75 million in expenses that have not been offset by the CARES Act, Bowen said. The city still submitted these expenses in case additional funds become available.

"It was such a long process to get everything approved that I threw everything but the kitchen sink at them," she said.