Treating inmates for COVID-19 gets costly for Winston County budget

Inmates with COVID-19 have received treatment and the bills are rolling in. Law enforcement have applied for reimbursement from the Cares Act but are waiting for an answer.

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WINSTON COUNTY,Miss. (WCBI)- Winston-Choctaw County Regional Correctional Facility is on a tight budget.

Inmates with COVID-19 have received treatment and the bills are rolling in.

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Law enforcement has applied for reimbursement from the Cares Act but is waiting for an answer.

During a pandemic, even inmates can become infected in their cells.

And sending them to the doctor is costly.

Money to operate the Winston-Choctaw County Regional Correctional Facility is running low. That’s what Sheriff Jason Pugh says after his jail is delayed another day for Cares Acts reimbursement.

” The Mississippi Legislature went ahead and marked $4,000,000 for regional jails, which is the kind of jail I run, to help reimburse them for COVID-19 expenses. We are turning those expenses in. They have to go through a process where they are reviewed by the people with the department of corrections before we receive reimbursement,” said Pugh.

Pugh says nearly 30 inmates received treatment for COVID-19, leaving the facility with an $80,000 bill.

” With correctional facilities, any overturns become the responsibility of the county not the responsibility of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. When you’re running a very tight budget and then you have a COVID-19 expense for around $100,000 quite obviously it is devastating to your bottom line,” said Pugh.

Pugh says Winston County was one of the first counties to submit paperwork for reimbursement.

But after waiting for several months, a check still hasn’t come.

“It’s a very big burden on my supervisors to play that juggling act and to figure out where they’re getting that money from to back this up until this money comes in,” said Pugh.

Winston County EMA Director Buddy King doesn’t know how next year’s budget will look after this nightmare.

” In our budget year of 2020, we came up with a $300,000 deficit for COVID-19. That money was not there for that year. It does put you in a behind position for the county. You can’t budget from disaster. You don’t know what the costs are,” said King.

King is hopeful funds will arrive soon.

” Fortunately for this disaster, the state government and the federal government have responded well and made available funds so the county can recover those expenses that were occurred because of COVID-19,” said King.

“We are in high hopes that the money will be forthcoming quickly. I’ve talked with other counties who have received money so we are really ready to see that here,” said Pugh.

Paperwork from the Cares Act has been approved.