Delaware looks to earmark $2.6M in pandemic relief

Council to meet Oct. 21 to determine allocations

Paul Comstock
ThisWeek

The city of Delaware has been allocated $2.6 million in federal relief funds to mitigate economic damage caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The business community is "definitely struggling throughout – not just the city but the county and all of central Ohio, " Delaware County Convention & Visitors Bureau board member Bob Lamb told City Council on Oct. 12 during a livestreamed meeting on Facebook.

"I think these types of programs are what we need to be doing to make sure we're helping the businesses," he said.

COVID-19 coronavirus illustration

Council discussed proposed distribution of the funds to local agencies and scheduled a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21, to consider an ordinance approving the allocations.

The funds are the city's share of the third round of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Representatives of Delaware City Schools and local agencies described details of their fund requests to council.

Delaware County United Way partners with local agencies to assist families struggling as a result of the economy, United Way president Brandon Feller told council.

United Way potentially could request about $200,000 for rent and utility assistance, $150,000 to address food insecurity, $60,000 for family and homeless-shelter operations and $85,000 for medical and legal support, Feller said.

With assistance from the state auditor’s office, United Way is looking closely at detailed CARES guidelines to ensure it meets the requirements, which could affect the size of its request, he said.

Sixty percent of United Way's clients live in the city, Feller said.

Delaware City Schools Superintendent Heidi Kegley said the district's request totals $175,000.

The district is covering costs for about 500 Chromebook computers students use in classrooms and for remote learning, plus hundreds of Wi-Fi hotspots to ensure students have internet access, she said.

"We just appreciate the opportunity for anything that council may be able to support us with during this time and are so grateful for the opportunity to partner," Kegley said.

Main Street Delaware director Susie Bibler said the organization plans a marketing program to help downtown businesses.

"As you know, it's no secret that small-business owners around the county are feeling overwhelmed by the loss of income due to the pandemic," she said. "According to Main Street America, we know that it's estimated that 7.5 million small businesses are at risk of closing due to the destruction caused by COVID."

Main Street's plan includes video marketing on social media and an app to promote small businesses with coupons and push notifications (online communication Main Street would initiate), Bibler said. Main Street is requesting $30,748, she said. 

The pandemic changed "everything that we do" at the Second Ward Community Initiative, which operates the community center at 54 Ross St., director Karriejoi Coit told council.

"We went from being just a community center to literally providing case management, community resources, providing food four days out of the week and also assisting families with the things and items they were going to need for going back to school,” Coit said. “And things just kind of got completely a little different than what we were expecting for 2020."

She said the center provided food to 120 families Oct. 12 and ran out in 90 minutes.

SWCI is requesting $148,411, Coit said.

The center partners with local groups and agencies that are struggling financially while "the people are still hungry and we still need to continue with the services," she said.

The center's programs include tutoring for 75 students, delivering food to elderly residents and providing snack bags to children, she said. 

Feller commended City Manager Tom Homan and city employees for working on the CARES program for the past three weeks.

Homan told council CARES is covered by hundreds of pages of guidelines.

City finance director Justin Nahvi said agencies receiving CARES funds must spend them by Dec. 30.

"This is a huge issue timeline-wise, in my opinion," he said.

Also during the meeting, council approved an ordinance allocating $656,315 in CARES funds to cover unforeseen needs and unbudgeted costs incurred by the city because of the pandemic.

Assistant City Manager Kyle Kridler said the costs included changes to HVAC systems in city buildings and additional software.

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