On December 8, Emergency Services Director Clay Stamp appeared before the Talbot County Council to seek approval for the final allocations of the County’s CARES Act funding.
This comes as jurisdictions around the country race to spend the last of the federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Talbot County, though, is steadily working the recovery plan it set in motion in May 2020.
“We don’t want to send back any money that would benefit our citizens,” says Council President Chuck Callahan. “Our team has worked hard to make sure that we have distributed the money where it is needed in our community — to the most vulnerable among us and directly to the business community.”
Early on, Talbot County appointed an executive team to oversee the distribution of funds.Members include Councilman Corey Pack, County Manager Andy Hollis, Emergency Services Director Clay Stamp, Finance Director Angela Lane, and Health Officer Fredia Wadley, M.D.
Of the $6.4 million allocated to the county, $3.2 million was earmarked for the Talbot County Health Department to use for public health initiatives related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The balance was to be spent by the Talbot County government for expenses directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the initial plan, the executive team allocated $1.2 million for a business grant program and another $1.2 million funded the county’s individual assistance program.
Additional funds were set aside for the Emergency Operations Center and Emergency Services to make substantial PPE purchases, to cover sheltering for emergency personnel with COVID-19 exposure, and to cover costs related to providing food to those in need. The balance was held in reserve for other expenses.
“Our executive team has helped us find true north when there were decisions to be made,” says Stamp. “We designed a plan that allowed us to both meet the needs of our citizens and be flexible enough to respond to unexpected needs.”
As December 30 and the end of the grant period approaches, the county’s CARES executive team finalized its plan for spending the estimated balance of funds in a way that maximizes the response on behalf of county residents and complies with the grant terms.
The proposal includes the following:
• Hazard pay for public safety employees for the period Talbot County was under a State of Emergency (March 16 – June 30, 2020) – $367,000
• Grants to volunteer fire departments of up to $30,000 per department for their preparedness response as they continue to serve amid the pandemic – $190,000
• Mobile triage unit for Emergency Services to support the emergency public health response and vaccine delivery – $158,000
• Emergency assistance to Neighborhood Service Center for retention of a COVID-19 assistance staff position if state funding cut is made in CY20 – $5,000
The proposal also recommends the reallocation of funds in underused line items. Those expenditures include:
• Additional funding for small business grants to address unmet needs among county businesses and nonprofit organizations – $250,000
• Distribution of free holiday meals and small grants to the five standing food pantries in the county, as well as facility use cost to Easton Elks Lodge #1622 for mobile pantries -$53,000
• Mental Health First Aid care for Emergency Services personnel – $9,000
Finance Director Angela Lane notes that the proposed plan is based on projections with the final distribution from the Individual Assistance Program including child care assistance being highly variable. During the fall, the Department of Social Services was only receiving 12 applications per week. They are now receiving 17 applications per day, which represent varying levels of financial need.
The county council unanimously supported the distribution of the remaining funds and voted 5-0 to approve the plan.