Council hears how CARES Act money has been spent

Pulaski Town Council heard a presentation Tuesday evening on how the town had distributed and spent roughly $700,000 in federal CARES Act funding.

Jordan Whitt, the town’s Social Media Manager and Rebecca Leeper, Finance Director made the presentation.

Whitt told council that – since August – town staff had worked across all departments to identify ways to make use of the funding, which had come to the town through Pulaski County, in a “thoughtful and practical” manner to benefit town staff, the town’s small business and non-profit communities and citizens at-large.

“It is our wholehearted belief that the combination of efforts put forth by our co-workers have resulted in a greatly increased capacity to mitigate and slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community, along with providing much needed support for those in the town who have undergone struggles related to this pandemic,” Whitt said.

He said the roughly $700,000 received by the town had been broken down into several categories including infrastructure, sanitation capabilities, PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), telework capabilities, payroll expenses, public health and safety salaries and grant funding for small businesses and non-profit organizations.

Roughly $175,000 has gone to infrastructure items. Included are things such as a downtown Wi-Fi hotspot and town signage – items that are geared toward drawing visitors and residents downtown to bolter the town’s small businesses and non-profit organizations.

Other items include touchless door entry systems for the Municipal Building – including the side doors near the Finance Department where the majority of foot traffic into the building occurs.

Also on the list are a customer drive-thru window for the Finance Department and new anti-microbial / anti-viral countertop surfacing to provide additional protection from COVID-19 for customers making in-person payments.

There are also several items involving the Police and Fire Department facilities.

Some $28,000 will go for sanitation items throughout town facilities including disinfectant sprayers and disinfectant, automated soap and hand sanitizer dispensers, refills and batteries for the dispensers as well as standard cleaning supplies.

Roughly $59,000 has gone to PPE to provide staff and citizens with extra layers of protection from COVID-19 infection. Those items include extra sets of uniforms, hazmat suits and breathing apparatus for the Fire Department, facemasks for staff and visitors to the Municipal Building, eye goggles and voice activated radios for Fire Department employees.

Some $18,000 has gone for laptops and accompanying software for multiple town employees to be able to perform town work from home.

Some $50,000 has been spent on various payroll expenses since March for extra sanitation of work areas, qualifying emergency personnel expenses or reimbursement for staff required to quarantine.

About $320,000 has been designated for grants to small businesses and non-profits in the town.

Grants of up to $5,000 have gone to 47 small businesses and non-profit organizations to help them recover from the financial hardships that all have endured over the past months, as well as ensure they can continue to provide vital services to the community.

Three non-profits – Beans & Rice, Inc., Pulaski Daily Bread and the YMCA of Pulaski County – received larger grants.

Beans & Rice received a $75,000 grant to pursue the purchase of a food truck and implementation of a fresh food delivery program to areas of Town in particular need. This program will provide those areas with healthy food options so that those citizens who may not be comfortable with visiting grocery stores or farmer’s markets as the pandemic persists will still have access to nutritional needs.

Pulaski Daily Bread was provided with a $25,000 grant for purchase of food items to be distributed to those in need who make frequent use of their free meal programs.

Whitt said, after speaking with their director, the funds have been used to purchase over 20,000 pounds of food, along with items such as meal containers and eating utensils.

The YMCA was provided a $20,000 grant to aid in the facilitation of their childcare options through the Y Excel program, which provides additional education opportunities through afterschool activities. The funds ensured that they were able to meet staffing requirements, especially when attendance of the program grew significantly when schools were moved to 50 percent virtual and then all-virtual learning.