Gregg County is seeking funding to help cover extra expenses associated with responding to COVID-19.

On Monday, the Gregg County Commissioners Court unanimously approved accessing or applying for grant funds totaling about $1.32 million from several sources, starting with money from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act through the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

County Auditor Laurie Woloszyn told commissioners the county is eligible for about $1.1 million for qualifying expenses between March 1 and Dec. 30. She said 20%, or $218,196, is available immediately, with the rest available on a reimbursement basis. She said the county already has spent about $100,000 on such items as personal protective equipment, including masks and hand sanitizer, and some COVID-19 testing in nursing homes.

“I think it’s a great program,” that would be “really helpful,” she said.

Also, Sheriff Maxey Cerliano received approval of a resolution supporting his grant application for $167,000 from the governor’s Public Safety-Criminal Justice Division for the Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Program.

The grant would help with “jail medical” costs, he said, including funding to help cover such expenses as hospital costs, overtime pay and COVID-19 testing of jail inmates and staff.

He also was approved to accept a $58,008 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice — Office of Justice Programs. He said about $21,000 would go toward technology that “allows us to have some of our officers and command staff distance work even when they’re in the office, without being right next to each other.” Another $37,000 would go toward continuing overtime costs the jail is experiencing.

Pct. 1 Commissioner Ronnie McKinney asked if the overtime costs are related to continuing vacancies in jail staff.

“We’re struggling every day,” Cerliano said.

He said the staff is down more than when he appeared before the commissioners two weeks ago. The jail lost three more staff members, including a jail deputy, he said.

But he said eight new jail staff members, including a nurse, would start new employee orientation on today.

“We’re still going to be in the double digits even with these starting,” Cerliano said.

He said the jail staff shortage includes two people deployed with the National Guard, one of whom tested positive for COVID-19 while serving with the military.

The jail now has nine inmates with COVID-19 and one staff member. Two weeks ago the jail had 52 positive inmates and five jailers.

“We have gotten some of those staff members back to work,” he said.