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Chesterfield Supervisors Approve How To Spend CARES Funds

photo of money
Part of the new batch of federal funds will go to easing the cost the school district is facing to help students learn virtually. This includes converting closed libraries into distance learning centers, helping fund daycare centers in local YMCAs and partially pay for nurses to be in schools. (Photo: Pixaby)

The Chesterfield Board of Supervisors selected what initiatives will be funded from more than $50 million in federal aid from the CARES Act. County officials aim to use the money to help fix and stabilize the county infrastructure that’s been hard hit by effects from the coronavirus. 

Part of the new batch of federal funds will go to easing the cost the school district is facing to help students learn virtually. This includes converting closed libraries into distance learning centers, helping fund daycare centers in local YMCAs and partially pay for nurses to be in schools.

The money can also go toward fulfilling major capital projects for the county. The biggest chunk of funds -- more than $11 million -- will be used to improve HVAC systems across the school district. 

“That doesn’t in and of itself solve COVID,”  Matt Harris said, Deputy County Administrator in charge of finance. “But I think there is a lot of literature and a lot of guidance out there that, making sure that your HVAC systems are running as well as they can and that you have the best filtration in your buildings that you can possibly have, is a huge assistance in dealing with COVID. So we want to make sure we’re being supportive of that as well.” 

Last year, several schools’ HVAC systems tested positive for Legionella bacteria and an internal audit found that the district had not prioritized preventive maintenance. In considering risks for spreading the coronavirus, t he CDC issued guidance to schools, urging them to upgrade those systems if possible.

But what worries Harris the most is how quickly they need to spend the money.

“This is the major flaw in the CARES legislation. Is that, it is written such that you need to have everything completed by 12/30,” Harris said.

Back in June, the county began its first of two rounds of grants to small businesses using CARES Act funds, called “Back in Business” grants. However, those had strict guidelines as to what type of business could request the grant.

At their monthly meeting Wednesday, Pearl Cooper, who runs the non-profit Bountiful Blessings, expressed concerns about the requirements organizations must meet to access these funds from the county.

“Trying to get loans without income is not something that’s easy to do,” Cooper said.

Cooper said the non-profit has delivered household products, such as food, cleaning supplies and clothes, to more than 200 families in the county.. She told supervisors that she had tried to apply for the “Back in Business” grant but because she runs a non-profit, she wasn’t able to access money.

In response to Cooper, supervisor Jim Holland said that another round of small business grants will be coming in the next few weeks -- with an aim to help some local nonprofits, including the Chesterfield Food Bank. 

Following the vote Wednesday, officials say the next step in the process is to start working with all the agencies to distribute the money.

 

Ian M. Stewart previously was the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.
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