Delaware council: CARES Act distribution was 'great value for the taxpayers'

Paul Comstock

Delaware City Council on March 22 heard how its distribution of federal funds has helped alleviate economic pain in the city that was caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic – pain that is likely to continue. 

In October, the city was allocated $2.6 million as its share of the third round of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, designed to mitigate economic damage caused by the pandemic.

On Oct. 12, council approved an ordinance allocating $656,315 in CARES Act funds to cover unforeseen needs and unbudgeted costs incurred by the city because of the pandemic.

The city invited social-service and public agencies to file requests for grants and distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars in the initial distribution, with supplemental distributions approved later.

Delaware City Hall

United Way of Delaware County president Brandon Feller and Destination Delaware County executive director Tim Wilson described the use of the grants.

 Feller said the need for economic help is considerable among local residents, including those seeking help for the first time. 

"I think in a lot of ways ... as people used up all of their savings or used up any stimulus money, we've seen more and more folks needing assistance."

In the preceding week alone, he said, local agencies spent $56,000 on rent and utility assistance.

 "The demand and need is there for sure, and I think as we go forward, we're going to continue to see that," he said. "All of our agencies, whether it was food pantries or the clinics, they all had record numbers and record demand. With the food pantries particularly ... it wasn't their normal clients. It was new clients, new families that never reached out for assistance, never navigated the pantry system before."

United Way, he said, frequently hears from families who say the financial help has been the only way they could keep their homes and pay their bills.

"One of our strategies really was to spread funding around as much as possible to multiple programs that were seeing increased demand as a result of the pandemic," he said. "I think city staff put together a solid program to ... get the greatest impact in the community. ... That was a great value for the taxpayers."

Feller described CARE grant expenditures, including the following:

• The Pathways to Hope program administered by United Way, about $33,000 spent to aid 26 families with rent, mortgage and utility needs.

• The Salvation Army, about $10,000 to help 24 families with utility-bill assistance.

• People in Need, about $33,000 to aid 34 households.

• All pantries participating in the Delaware County Hunger Alliance, about $75,000.

He said the food distribution included the Delaware City Vineyard church, 85,000 meals; Lutheran Social Services, 57,000 meals; and PIN, 45,000 meals and 600 holiday food boxes.

CARE funds also were used by the Turning Point domestic-violence shelter, the Jacobs Way recovery shelter, Grace Clinic Delaware, the Delaware Speech and Hearing Center, the local Legal Aid Society, Helpline and the Liberty Community Center, among others, Feller said.

He said all receipts and purchase orders made with the grant money are available for inspection by the city staff.   

 Wilson said Destination Delaware County used its CARE grant to develop a business-relief campaign.

It promoted local businesses with Facebook ads, video and other social media that reached an audience of 2.45 million people, he said. The posts drew 82,000 clicks, and bloggers reached more than 104,000 users, he said.

Destination Delaware gave away $1,200 in gift cards and promoted a number of individual businesses in video, he said.

He commended the city for allowing curbside pickup of food orders, downtown igloos for cold-weather dining and an outdoor refreshment area.

"Honestly, I feel like this program in itself speaks very well to future collaborations between (Destination Delaware) and the city of Delaware,” Wilson said. “We're here for the city of Delaware, and we're anxious to work with you folks again."

City Manager Tom Homan said the grant to Destination Delaware likely would be the first of many collaborations.

He called United Way and Destination Delaware important organizations in the city.