- Fred Spriggs

If Missouri Gov. Mike Parson needs to find a shining example of a county distributing federal Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Stimulus (C.A.R.E.S.) Act funding to the people who need it the most — our local governments, schools, institutions of faith, organizations and small businesses — he need look no farther than Webster County.

On Friday, about $1.6 million of the federally funded $4.6-million C.A.R.E.S. Act dollars received by our county had been allocated to the aforementioned core institutions, according to Webster County Clerk Stan Whitehurst.

Seymour’s C.A.R.E.S. Act coordinator, Terry Penner, said on Friday that federal-relief dollars received in Seymour now total about $383,000.

Terry added she expects additional funding requests from the Seymour R-II School District and many others.

Our schools have been hit exceptionally hard combating the virus, but I’m confident Seymour R-II Superintendent Steve Richards is busy crunching numbers to request more funding to improve technology.

It seems that “virtual” is the second-most used word of 2020, obviously pushed out of the top spot by the word “pandemic.”

That’s why when I talked with Steve in early June as preparations were under way to conduct summer school, he was already researching how best to use technology to help educators do what they do best, teach, during this pandemic.

Think of it this way: There has been a huge increase in the workload for our teachers.

For example, parents who choose to have their children stay home from school receive school work virtually, via the Internet. Teachers are also busy in the classrooms teaching students who attend school. They still have to evaluate and grade material from students studying at home or in the classroom.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began earlier this year, the core entities that are the foundation of our community were some of the hardest hit by the shutdown of America. Guidance on living our lives while dealing with the virus continues to evolve. Unfortunately, this guidance usually translates into spending more money.

That means expenses will continue to mount for our small businesses, churches and especially our schools as guidance on helping prevent the spread of the virus continues to be modified as scientists learn more about how COVID-19 evolves and migrates around the world.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta estimates about 6.4-million people are infected in the U.S., with about 190,000 deaths. Worldwide, exact estimates are difficult to come by, but it seems the consensus is that about 28-million people have been infected, with deaths nearing the 1-million mark.

There’s not been a lot of good news when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, thanks to the county’s C.A.R.E.S. Act coordinator, Sigel Owen, the Webster County Commission, Whitehurst and County Treasurer Todd Hungerford, the deadline for applications for Phase II of the county’s COVID-19 program has been extended by 30 days ... until Sept. 30.

C.A.R.E.S. Act funding requests cover expenses incurred during the period that began March 1 and continue until Dec. 30.

Stan told me C.A.R.E.S. Act funding has been different than most government-funded programs where the guidance on how to manage the program comes in advance of the money. He said the C.A.R.E.S. Act check arrived even before the rules from the federal government, adding that because of the lack of information on how to manage the distribution of funds, he expects more guidance from Washington,

D.C., as the program is modified.

I’m convinced too many of the people we elect to Congress, as well as those in what’s being called the “Deep State,” the professional “Beltway” bureaucrats, have no idea during this pandemic how the average American citizen is trying to cope.

Paying for a mortgage, car payment, buying gas to drive to work, feeding and clothing the family with milk at nearly $5 a gallon, mandatory health care they have to pay for thanks to Obamacare while so many people who don’t work and pay taxes don’t have to pay a dime for medical care, parents trying to help with virtual learning for school children who stay home, all while trying not to lose their job and ending up on the public dole.

Let me iterate that I’m extremely proud of how Webster County has reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although infections continue to be reported in Webster County and across the country, I have faith that a vaccine will soon be available.

Since I’m both retired military and rated at 90-percent service-connected disabled by the Veterans Administration (VA), the expiration date on the back of my military I.D. card reads “Indefinite,” meaning it expires when I do.

I have little choice about taking a vaccine. Regardless, I will volunteer to receive my immunization as soon as the Department of Defense or the VA starts distributing a vaccine.

That’s no big deal because all us Persian Gulf War veterans were given a biological-weapon immunization that hadn’t been tested on humans. I’ve had shots to prevent

The Black Plague, yellow fever and I can’t remember all the other nasty little “bugs” swimming around inside my blood thanks to Uncle Sam’s paid vacations to some of the most “exotic” Third World and Fourth World locations on the planet.

A COVID-19 vaccine should feel right at home swimming around inside me.

When you run into Terry Penner in town, take a few minutes to thank her for all the extra, unpaid hours she’s putting in to help applicants get the money they so badly need.

Also, the next time you are in Marshfield, stop by the courthouse and thank Stan in the county clerk’s office, Todd across the hall at the treasurer’s office, as well as Presiding Commissioner Paul Ipock, Northern District Commissioner Dale Fraker and Southern District Commissioner Randy Owens for their wise decision to extend the Phase II deadline.

We’ve seen during this pandemic that nothing is carved in stone. That’s why people should file their applications now, while the money is still available.

None of us know what the future will bring.

Fred Spriggs is the former news editor of the Webster County Citizen, a position he held for nearly 15 years and where he won dozens of national and state awards for journalism excellence. He now lives in rural Stone County in retirement with his wife, Julie, who also is a Seymour native.

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