How CARES Funds Helped Kent Community

Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

According to The United States Treasury, “the CARES Act provides assistance for State, Local, and Tribal Governments. Through the Coronavirus Relief Fund, the CARES Act provides for payments to State, Local, and Tribal governments navigating the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. The CARES Act established the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund.” 

The City of Kent is an entitlement community, which means that the City receives a direct allocation of federal money to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) due to annually low-income numbers. 

CARES Act funds were being provided to any entitlement community that was already receiving annual CDBG money; however, these funds are called Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus (CDBG-CV). 

The funding is limited to CDBG eligible activities such as supporting programs and activities that will assist low-to-moderate income persons who have been adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The funds also must be committed and expended by December 21st

Community Development Director Bridget Susel

“In that first round of funding from the CARES act, we received $178,696,” Community Development Director, Bridget Susel said. “We just received notification about two weeks ago that we received another and final round of CDBG-CV money, and that amount is $162,666. Total additional CARES act money, we received just over $341,000. That’s money that we normally would not have gotten.” 

Here is how the money has been committed thus far:

  • $75,000 to Family & Community Services (F&CS) for 5 different COVID-19 related needed services.
  • $50,089 to a City administered “Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program” to assist small businesses who employ low-to-moderate income workers.
  • $35,738 for implementation and administrative costs;
  • $17,869 still to be committed, but will likely go to F&CS or small business grant program.

The City is disbursing some of these funds to the nonprofit agency, Family and Community Services to provide 5 different COVID-19 related services which are: 

Meal delivery for residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are in a CDC designated high-risk group. 

Executive Director of Family and Community Services Mark Frisone

“People would call in, we would pack the pantry orders,” Executive Director of Family and Community Services, Mark Frisone said. “We would load them on a vehicle and have a driver and a volunteer drive around town, sometimes three or four vehicles at a time, and deliver food to the families that needed it.” 

Sanitation for buildings that provide services for those in need. Susel said that sanitation teams would be following the state of Ohio Health Department requirements to clean office spaces and residential facilities. 

“Our congregate facility and our residential facilities are just ripe for potential COVID outbreaks, so we had to be doubly cautious in terms of keeping those places clean,” Frisone said. “We actually developed a team of folks who go into of our facilities and sanitizing and deep clean.”

Purchasing Personal Protective Equipment for staff providing direct service delivery for the supportive service programs. This protective equipment consisted of masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and thermometers. 

“The PPE and the sanitation put people’s mind at ease,” Frisone said. “Whether it’s a resident living in a facility or staff working in a facility. Our staff is literally on the front lines. In a facility with 20 or 30 people crammed in there, it’s just a recipe for a potential COVID disaster. But with the proper PPE and the proper disinfectant, the stress of that was relieved.” 

Providing additional goods at the Kent Social Services Food Pantry because of increased demand due to COVID-19. Susel said that the need for food had gone up exponentially since March when businesses began shutting down. 

“We had an unprecedented demand for food because a lot of people were losing their jobs,” Frisone said. “It was obviously traumatic for Kent as well as our entire country in terms of trying to get food to the people who needed it the most.” 

Frisone said that the number of meals served and pantry orders placed at Family and Community Services almost tripled from their numbers in 2019 during March, April, and May.

The CDBG-CV funds also helped establish the Small Business Assistance Program through the City of Kent Community Development Department to help small businesses that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. 

Susel said that this program’s purpose is to help local businesses that had to lay off employees in low-income positions. In order to be eligible, the business had to commit to keeping its low-income workers employed. Four local businesses have received the grant; Bent City Coffee, Grazers, Tree City Coffee, and Little City Grill. They are receiving $10,000 each. 

According to Susel, the City must first go through a public hearing process before they can commit the funding from the second round of CDBG-CV funds. She anticipates that they will be supporting the same projects with ongoing funding.