Montgomery County may be under a disaster declaration for the remainder of this year, and purchasing of more personal protective equipment is expected to ramp up, according to county officials.

Commissioners approved extending the county’s disaster declaration, originally signed by County Judge Mark Keough on March 12, for an additional 30 days. Keough signed the disaster declaration extension March 11, but it required official court approval.

The extension will expire June 11 at 11:59 p.m. Jason Millsaps, Keough’s chief of staff, said the court will likely need to keep renewing it to streamline purchasing for coronavirus-related items.

The disaster declaration allows the county circumvent its normal bid process to speed up purchasing items, Millsaps said. The county has $105 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act that must be spent before Dec. 3. Millsaps said he expects to spend about $300,000 between March 12 and the next Commissioners Court meeting.

“If we were to have to go through our normal bid process, [the] purchasing [department] is telling me that will slow that down and prohibit us from expending those funds within the allotted time frame,” Millsaps said. “So this will streamline that process and allow the emergency management office to continue to operate like we have been in the last 90 days.”

Millsaps said the county will need to purchase more PPE, such as gloves, masks, hand sanitizers and cleaning supplies, as departments have opened up, and others, such as courts, will open June 1.

“There’s going to be some requirements for court operations to have PPE available at all times, not only for the citizens in the court but also the staff,” he said. “So the burn rate for the PPE use for those departments is going to be extremely high, not to mention our law enforcement, our jails—inmates in jails are still wearing masks—and then, all of the first responders.”

The disaster declaration does not modify or extend any local orders, such as the county stay-at-home order, which has been lifted.

If the disaster declaration is not extended, it could slow down the process for purchasing necessary equipment, Millsaps said.

“We [are] probably going to continue the disaster declarations through the bulk of this year in order to keep us from having to go through the bid process on items because it will slow us down,” he said.