‘Show us the money!’ Platte County Health Department frozen out of CARES Act funding

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PARKVILLE, Mo. — The Platte County Health Department is relying on cash reserves while trying to hold the line on the coronavirus.

“We’ve been using our reserve funds. We’ve used existing staff that we’ve cross-trained to be able to do testing and some of the contact tracing and disease investigations,” said Mary Jo Vernon, the Platte County Public Health Director.

Thus far, the Platte County Health Department has been frozen out of federal funds from the CARES Act. It’s leading some to question whether the Platte County Board of Commissioners, which is charged with disbursing the federal assistance, is punishing the health department in a political power play.

“I cannot believe they operate in this fashion in this county,” said Paula Willmarth, who serves on the health department’s board of trustees.

“It makes one wonder why they would want to withhold this money,” Willmarth added.

Other surrounding county health departments have received millions in federal assistance from their respective county leadership. Johnson County, Kansas, received $30 million. The Jackson County legislature disbursed nearly $19 million to the Kansas City Health Department.

But Platte County’s health department is still waiting.

Platte County Presiding Commissioner Ron Schieber declined an interview but mentioned he believes it’s the health department staff who are making the situation political.

Vernon said her agency is spending $24,000 per month on testing alone.

“It’s a disgrace. It’s a disgrace and it’s disrespectful and it’s condescending to the citizens of this county,” Willmarth said.

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