A bipartisan team of lawmakers, agency chiefs, and other advisors is helping Gov. Mike Parson to stay on top of massive amounts of federal money coming into Missouri for coping with COVID-19.

The working group appointed by the governor made its first major move Tuesday to clear $500 million in CARES Act funding to be spread out among counties and St. Louis City. View the allocations by county.

State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick chairs the group and says he has been preparing the counties to get this money.

“This is a lot of money. We’re going to get $521 million that for some counties represents a substantial portion of their operating budget for an entire year. The expectation I have tried to set in the conversations I have had, that they administer grants to other local government entities, whether it be their health departments, ambulance district or hospital district that has costs that have not been reimbursed from another source,” Fitzpatrick explained.

The checks could get to the counties about a week from today if the governor approves the spending.

Tuesday’s first meeting of the group also dealt with applying federal guidelines and a very general overview of state spending on coronavirus response — from public safety to testing. The CARES federal funding must be applied to direct costs from dealing with COVID-19 after March 1, 2020 and prior to December 30, 2020.

Though the $6.2 billion state supplemental budget serves as a guide for those allocations, members agree the challenge is discerning which agencies and businesses need the help and are not “double-dipping” with other aid coming directly from non-CARES Act aid.

“Things are changing pretty quickly,” said State Budget Director Dan Haug. He says he learned today that DESE is getting a separate $117 million for meals to schools.

“Things are still rolling in as we speak. We want to take a global look at this so that if they are getting $117 for meals then maybe we don’t need to provide money for meals and we can use that money more effectively somewhere else,” Haug said.

Haug says his division will provide the group with an accounting of all of the money coming into Missouri outside of the state budget, for instance, the recent relief to hospitals that came directly from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.