Hernando County Fire Chief Scott Hechler advised the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) on Tuesday, April 28, 2020 that Hernando County Fire-Rescue (HCFR) is the recipient of funding from the CARES Act. The BOCC unanimously approved this funding and additional funding from reimbursements from Medicare, Medicaid and other insurance companies. The appropriate budget resolutions were passed.
According to the US Department of Treasury, “The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed by Congress with overwhelming, bipartisan support and signed into law by President Trump on March 27th, 2020. This over $2 trillion economic relief package provides fast and direct economic assistance for American workers, families, and small businesses, and preserves jobs for our American industries.”
HCFR’s Finance Director Kelly Trout, told the commission, “Very rarely do you just receive a check in the mail but that's pretty much what happened here. Through the CARES act, they send us a check for $176,000.” Trout explained that the BOCC is required to approve the acceptance of the funds, and added that there are several pages of rules and regulations terms and conditions required for acceptance.
“One thing in particular is that -- as we bill for transportation services for ambulances, -- we cannot balance-bill the patient for a COVID-related incident. We accept this money, and it can help us to provide for the personal protective gear that our folks in the field are using …such as masks, gowns, boot covers, and thermometers. We have some decontamination units that we have purchased.”
The CARES act funds will not cover salaries, so HCFR will seek reimbursement through separate FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funds.
Because these funds are basically a grant, and repayment is not required, there is very strict reporting that HCFR will submit to show how the money is spent.
Trout reported that the federal government has come forward with additional money that will be available on a reimbursement basis. The first avenue is funding through what Medicare, Medicaid and other insurance companies are paying in reimbursements. The requirement with these funds is also that the department cannot bill the patient for any balance over the reimbursement amount.
Commissioner John Allocco commented, “It’s just amazing that all these organizations at the federal level have so much money sitting around and just give away to people, and and it literally just magically shows up in your bank account.”
Trout also reported that an additional supplemental firefighter grant is available, however the application period ends on May 15th, so she and the department would not have time to seek board approval to apply before then. This is a 90% grant with a 10% match on funding.
It is also for protective gear, decontamination supplies for COVID related calls.
Hechler told the board that the intention of these funds is for additional decontamination machines to install throughout the county.
County Administrator Jeff Rogers will review the cost to the county, then decide if he will approve the submission as a matter of policy if the cost is minimal, or introduce it in the next agenda on May 12, 2020.