The CARES Act has provided numerous funding streams for governmental units, businesses and non-profits to assist them in trying to maintain business as usual while preparing themselves and their polling places during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the primary election just two weeks away on Tuesday, Aug. 11, Wright County Auditor/Treasurer said that Wright County will be getting more than $98,000 to assist in precautions and equipment necessary to conduct the two significant elections remaining this year – primary election Tuesday, Aug. 11 and the general election Tuesday, Nov. 3.
“The state released another CARES grant for elections,” Hiivala said. “Wright County is looking to get $98,281. A portion of this will be given to the precincts to cover the actual costs that deal with CARES. It could be (used for) cleaning, supplies, additional elections judges at the polling places or hiring someone who just cleans between voters.”
The Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees elections, received the federal CARES Act funding to prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus for the 2020 federal election cycle. It divided the CARES Act funding to all Minnesota counties and municipalities based on a variety of factors. Of the $98,281 available to Wright County, $61,662 would be allocated for reimbursement of expenses to municipalities and $36,619 would be allocated for county expense reimbursement.
Given the volume of people expected to vote via absentee ballot in the November election, Hiivala said the county has identified of costs associated with its portion of the election process.
“At the county we’re looking for a piece of equipment that will open the envelopes for absentee ballots and we’re going to bring on additional judges to help out for the anticipated increase in number of people voting absentee,” Hiivala said.
Wright County Commissioner Darek Vetsch asked about the status of election judges. Many election judges are over 60 years of age and fall into the segment of the population deemed most at risk of complications if they contract COVID-19. He wondered if there is a contingency plan in place in the event precincts will be fully staffed or have some that, as Election Day approaches, back out of serving as judges.
“I know that has been an issue,” Vetsch said. “Can we use some of that money to recruit (election judges)? Unfortunately, we’ve never had to market at this level. Are we going to have extra people because, when push comes to shove, they won’t want to do it?”
Hiivala said his office has been in contact with all precincts to assure that the election will come off as planned. He cited significant problems with the Presidential Nomination Primary in Wisconsin this spring and that steps are being taken to identify potential issues and making sure that the proper manpower plans are in place.
The county board unanimously approved having Hiivala apply for Wright County’s share of the election CARES funding. The funds come with a 20 percent local match requirement.