Grant slated to establish homeless shelter


Union County officials are using CARES Act funding to pay for a variety of items, including a possible homeless shelter.
Union County received about $852,000 through the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund.
Earlier this year, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act established the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund to provide payments to state, local and tribal governments navigating the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.
At a meeting last week, the county commissioners approved a plan for those funds.
The legislation includes approval of:
– Up to $35,000 to provide internet and WiFi connectivity to County facilities;
– Up to $47,000 to provide thermal scanners for County facilities;
– Up to $5,000 to the Tri-County Regional Jail for incurred costs for personal protection equipment and other COVID-19 related expenses;
– Up to $6,000 to the Central Ohio Youth Center (COYC) for the County’s share of expenses needed to provide computer and telephone hardware as well as fiber access to the internet;
– Up to $30,000 to the County Office of Economic Development to develop a workforce website;
– Up to $100,000 to the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio (ESC) to participate in a program to offer computers and internet access for low-income students;
– Up to $20,000 to the Union County Recorder’s Office for the digitalization of public records;
– Up to $40,000 to the Union County Engineer’s Office to add online filing application and filing capabilities;
– Up to $100,000 for a grant to Impact60 for the establishment of a homeless shelter in the county;
– Up to $200,000 to the Union County Health Department to reimburse COVID-19 incurred costs;
– Up to $80,000 to the County Office of Economic Development for additional 3R grants to support local businesses.
Union County Commissioner Chris Schmenk said the homeless shelter has been “a dream of mine.”
She said it has been on the radar for both the county and Impact60, a local nonprofit agency. She said homelessness in the county was a concern even before COVID-19, but the economic uncertainty highlighted the need. The commissioner said that when the county received the CARES Act money, she contacted Impact60 officials, “to see if they were interested in looking at something like this.”
She said there have been only “preliminary talks.” She said there are no details but officials want to quickly see if there is a path to make it happen.
“We just don’t know if we can get it done by the Dec. 30 deadline, but we would like to see something get started by then,” Schmenk said.
The wording of the resolution actually buys the project some time. The federal guidelines require the money to be spent on costs incurred between March 1 and Dec. 30. However, because the legislation approves a grant to Impact60, as long as the grant is awarded by Dec. 31, the money has been spent even if the shelter has not been completed.
Schmenk acknowledged the strategy, but added that, “I think to be good stewards, we would need to see some agreements or a serious intent to move forward.”
She explained that the legislation allows the county to spend the money, but does not guarantee it. She said before awarding the grant, county officials would, “circle back to see how much progress we can make before the end of the year.”
The commissioner said another area of focus was helping local businesses and employees.
She said part of the economic development money will be used to create a work force development website that, “will help local employers match their openings with employees in the community whose skills match the need, but who maybe have been furloughed because of COVID or out of work really for any reason.”
Schmenk said this is another of the projects that may not be able to move forward, but officials wanted to provide the funding in case it does.
She said some of the projects, like improving online access at the Recorder’s and Engineer’s offices are about allowing residents to conduct county business while at home, protecting them and county staff.
She said the thermal scanners help keep sick people out of the courthouse, protecting other patrons and staff. The county reviewed a variety of scanners and in the end chose what she called, “a more base, tried and true model.” She said a dozen scanners have been ordered to be used at a variety of county facilities.
Schmenk said all of the projects meet the guidelines set forward by the federal government, but also have long-term impacts for the county beyond the pandemic.
“We looked at things that were going to help us get through COVID, but we also wanted it to be projects that made sense,” Schmenk said.
Coronavirus Relief funds can only be used for necessary expenses incurred because of the COVID–19 public health emergency and were not accounted for in the most recent budget.

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