JANESVILLE—The Rock County Public Health Department is set to receive over $1.6 million in additional pandemic-related funding that will allow the county’s top health agency to maintain increased staffing levels and other operations.

Rock County will receive $1,620,300 in funding through the end of 2024. The latest round of aid comes from the State of Wisconsin’s Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Funding and Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund established by the American Rescue Plan.

Rock County Health Officer Katrina Harwood said the county will use a majority of the funding, around $1.1 million, to retain staff brought on after the pandemic began in the spring of 2020.

“This extra round of funding helps us continue to address the pandemic locally and we would not be able to address the pandemic without the additional staff,” Harwood said. “This funding we are getting helps relieve a little bit of that stress we experience.”

Since mid-2020, the health department has added 16 staff members, a 45% increase in employees. Positions added range from public health specialists to assist with administrative tasks and public health nurses brought on to manage contact tracing and disease activity in the county.

“We are still in a position where we need additional staff so a large portion of this funding is continued COVID response,” Harwood said. “The team has built up their exceptional skills to meet the needs of the county during the pandemic.”

The additional funding will be used by the health department to assist in vaccination efforts and pandemic recovery.

Harwood said the scope of the pandemic and drawn out nature of the pandemic were major challenges for Rock County and local health units across the country.

“The pandemic has exposed a lot of public health problems both on social determinant and health outcome levels,” Harwood said.

Going forward, Harwood stressed the need for state lawmakers to find ways to add annual funding for local health departments as communities come out of the pandemic.