The Manhattan Fire Department is now eligible to receive reimbursement support from coronavirus funding issued by the federal government.

The Manhattan city government learned last week that the fire department is now eligible to receive reimbursements for coronavirus-related expenses. Previously, the fire department was not eligible to receive reimbursements as the criteria has since changed since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.

“That was not necessarily known eligible criteria when we first went into this,” said Dennis Marstall, assistant city manager.

Marstall revealed that development with city, Riley County and Pottawatomie County commissioners. The meeting focused on funding updates from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

In addition, the Manhattan city government will now receive payroll reimbursements for employees who have spent more than 51% of their time working on the coronavirus response, Marstall said.

The funding from the CARES Act must be used for coronavirus-related expenses and any unspent money by the end of the year will be returned to the government.

“We don’t want to send money back to the state if we don’t have to,” said Tami Robison, budget and finance officer for Riley County.

The funds have to be in use by the end of the year, Robison said.

“So, for instance, if you ordered a vehicle and the build time was 10 months, then obviously we’re past that end of the year time frame and it becomes a non-eligible cost,” she said.

Riley County commissioners said Robison has been very helpful in the process of assessing coronavirus funding and requests from entities.

“Tami’s been handling it and we’re just following along with her because she has the time to get it and she’s a real good numbers lady,” said chairman Marvin Rodriguez.

The county also hired Witt O’Brien’s, a risk management and emergency response consulting firm, to help distribute the funds.

The second round of distribution of coronavirus funding to Riley County entities is coming up, Rodriguez said during the meeting.

“We’re holding our own with it,” Rodriguez said.

Riley County is getting a total of almost $15 million from the federal government to help during the coronavirus outbreak. Pottawatomie County is receiving $4.9 million. The city of Manhattan is getting $4.5 million.

The state of Kansas collected $1.25 billion from the federal government to distribute to Kansas counties.

Pottawatomie County commissioner Pat Weixelman wondered how costs are attributed to the coronavirus pandemic.

“You look at some of these things that we’re OKing, and have been OKed, and I really got to scratch my head about it, you know, trying to get them how they fall into the item that you need to describe them as being related to the (COVID-19) or the (COVID-19) did it,” he said.

“But it’s complicated,” Pottawatomie County commissioner Dee McKee said in response to his comments.

Weixelman urged caution and said it can be overwhelming sifting through the costs and documents moving forward.

“Really got to cross your T’s and dot your I’s when it’s coming down to that,” he said.