REED CITY – The Osceola County Board of Commissioners voted to extend the local state of emergency at its meeting Sept. 1.

Emergency manager Mark Watkins told the BOC that even though the initial COVID-19 pandemic mitigation procedures and processes have begun to slow down for the emergency management department, there is still a lot of recovery assistance that is being requested.

“Things are kind of tuning down on the COVID-19 front, which is a good thing, but we have days where we have operation of enforcement issues or health issues or logistics and finance that take up all of our time,” Watkins said. “My goal is that with one more state of emergency extension, we can kind of wrap this up and absorb everything back into normal operations.”

COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Osceola and the surrounding counties with 70 confirmed cases and 3 deaths in Osceola County as of Aug. 31, according to the Central Michigan District Health Department website.

In neighboring Mecosta County, the number of confirmed cases rose by three over the weekend plus three more on Monday, bringing the total there to 82, with two deaths, as of Aug. 31, according to the District Health Department No. 10 website.

In Lake County, the number of confirmed positive cases remains relatively low compared to other areas, with DHD No. 10 reporting a total of 28 confirmed cases and no deaths, as of Aug. 31.

Watkins said that right now most of the work of the emergency management department is in the area of finance, supporting various COVID-19 related grants and financial issues.

CARES Act grant funding for reimbursement of COVID-19 expenditures is still available to local governmental units. The emergency management department is working with the various entities to assist with grant applications to ensure all the information is accurate, and to avoid duplicating expenses, which would result in denial of the grant funding.

“The biggest one for the next 30 days that we will need to do is finish up our Public Assistance grant requests,” Watkins said. “We were told to hold off because of another program that was supposed to be opening up — the Opening up America grant program — but that seems to have gotten stuck in the political process with no timeline, so now we need to close the Public Assistance grant process.”

In addition, he said, our schools are opened and although they haven’t seen any issues with that so far, his department is on standby to assist them in any way they can.

“It (COVID-19 issues) is still enough that it is taking up 50 percent of our time at the EMD office and we are struggling trying to manage the things that pop up every day, along with only having two months to close up end of the year contract work, so we are requesting extension of the local state of emergency for one more month,” Watkins said.

The BOC voted to extend the Osceola County Local State of Emergency for COVID-19 response and recovery to October 6, 2020, or until emergency conditions secede.

In other business, Osceola County community development director Dan Massy requested the board set a public hearing for the Community Development Block Grant through the CARES Act.

“At your last meeting, the board passed a resolution to apply for the grant,” Massy said. “It is a Community Development Block grant, so we have to set a public hearing.”

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program provides annual grants to states, cities, and counties to assist in developing viable urban communities by providing suitable housing and expanding economic opportunities for low and moderate-income individuals.

Several programs have been set up allowing grantees to use CDBG funds for a range of eligible activities that prevent, and respond to, the spread of the COVID-19 disease.

A date for the public hearing for the Community Development Block Grant CARES Funding will be determined at a later date and will be published on the county website.

In addition, Massy asked the BOC for direction on whether or not to continue the county housing program for the next year.

“Every year the county gets income from the housing program,” Massy said. “If it is $35,000 or more, the county has two options — continue to run the program or give the money back to state. If it is less than $35,000, you can use it to run the program or put it in the general fund.

“Last year we received $23,983 in program income,” he continued. “I am asking for the board’s direction. Do you want a housing program for next 12 months, or do you want to put the money in the general fund?”

The county housing program is available to assist low-income homeowners with needed home repairs.

BOC member Mark Gregory made the motion to continue the program saying, “I think we should do it. As long as we have the funds to provide some assistance, there is no reason not to continue.”

BOC chairman Jack Nehmer agreed, saying, “I think any help we can give any of our constituents would be appreciated. We need to keep this program on the front burner because I think it is a good thing.”

Massy also informed the BOC, there is $173,000 available for local business owners in the form of small business restart grants through the CARES Act.

“The Right Place out of Grand Rapids will be distributing those monies directly to businesses,” he said.

The State of Michigan has allocated $100 million of CARES Act funding to implement the Michigan Small Business Restart Program to support the needs of Michigan businesses directly impacted by COVID-19.

The program provides funding to local economic development organizations (EDOs) who then provide grants to eligible small businesses that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 and need working capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility expenses or other similar expenses.

For more information on how to apply for the grant visit therightplace.org.

During the meeting, the BOC also passed the following motions:

• a motion to approve the Probate/Family Court Child Care Fund FY20-21 Grant Award;

• a motion to approve the Indigent Defense Managed Assigned Counsel Administrator Independent Contractor Agreement

• a motion to approve the purchase of a 2013 Dodge Caravan with wheelchair accommodation for $14,995 for the Commission on Aging Department, utilizing grant funds of $11,000 and the remainder from the C.O.A. Fund.

The next meeting of the Osceola County Board of Commissioners is scheduled for 9:30 a.m., Sept. 15. The meeting will be conducted virtually due to limitations on indoor gatherings because of the COIVD-19 pandemic. For information on how to participate in the virtual meeting visit Osceola-county.org or call 231-832-3261.