Throughout Garfield County, cities see possible relief in CARES Act funding
From portable toilets and sanitation stations to helping stock local food pantries, the city has put thousands of dollars toward combating COVID-19 since March, Glenwood Springs’ city manager said.
With about $300,000 spent so far, Debra Figueroa, Glenwood’s city manager, said the city prioritized assisting businesses and outfitting first responders with protective equipment, but also incurred COVID-19-related IT and communication costs during the last few months.
“Early on, we partnered with the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and (Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association) to fund some grants for local businesses that were hurting as a result of the pandemic,” Figueroa said.
By pulling money from various locations marked for nonprofit grants and an employee housing bonus, the city was able to allocate $200,000 for the Get Glenwood Going Grants (G4), which were distributed by the Glenwood Chamber.
“We decided against the employee bonuses this year, because we wanted to show the community we’re all in this together,” Figueroa said.
Additionally, the city laid off 100 part-time positions and the remaining city staff took a temporary 10% pay cut that is scheduled to be lifted later this year, she said.
Glenwood Chamber President and CEO Angie Anderson wrote in an email the G4 grants were distributed to 132 eligible businesses within the city.
“The response from businesses has been overwhelming,” Anderson wrote. “As one business stated, ‘We feel supported and encouraged by both the tangible and intangible aspects of this award.’”
Glenwood’s second-largest COVID-19 expense — about $37,000 — was personal protective equipment for first responders and city staff.
“It’s extraordinarily important for the city to ensure the safety and health of our firefighters,” Figueroa said.
While standard cloth masks were purchased for staff, the city also bought N95-rated masks, face shields, protective gowns and nitrile gloves for first responders.
Firefighters and paramedics use varying degrees of protection depending on a sliding scale of risk, a Glenwood Fire Department spokesperson wrote in an email.
“If we suspect we may need to do something called aerosolized generating procedures, we step it up,” wrote Doug Gerrald, a GFD Battalion chief. “The eye protection would include a full face shield, and the (typical protective) gown would be changed to one that is splash resistant, and we even add a shower cap type device over our heads.”
Aerosolized generating procedures include endotracheal intubations, CPR, continuous positive airway pressure device usage and nebulization of medicine, Gerrald explained.
Costing about $24,000, six portable toilets and sanitation stations were rented to provide Glenwood’s homeless population a sanitary place to clean up while the city’s public restrooms were closed, Figueroa said.
The Lift Up organization, which stocks seven food pantries on the Western Slope, received a $20,000 donation from the city to help with increased demand for food assistance.
The city also spent about $17,000 to facilitate listening sessions, which Figueroa said includes the costs of the facilitator and software used to notify Glenwood residents of the meeting via phone.
And the purchase of IT equipment to enable city staff to work from home cost Glenwood about $3,000, Figueroa said.
“Some of these expenditures are eligible to be refunded by our portion of the CARES ACT funding, but I haven’t had that conversation with City Council yet,” she said. “Without the CARES ACT funding, we would not be able to continue to provide the same level of assistance we’ve offered so far.”
Glenwood is slated to receive about $865,000 from the act, but with revenues down, the city could be in a bind for future funding.
“The far majority of our revenue comes from sales tax,” Figueroa said. “$865,000 is wonderful, but it does not make up for what was lost.”
CARES funding for Rifle
In Rifle, City Planner Nathan Lindquist said city staff is currently working on what qualifies to use the CARES funding for.
“We are eligible for $818,000, and are putting together a draft budget that we will share back with the City Council in August,” Lindquist said. “It’s a mix of different things that are eligible from business loans we have already done, potentially some more business loans if that’s needed.”
Lindquist said the city can also get reimbursed for disinfection of the playground equipment they are doing currently, and also for the staff that is helping out with LIFT-UP distributions.
“We’ll be trying to come up with an overall picture of what we can spend it on, and tracking it as we go to make sure we spend it all one way or the other,” Lindquist said.
Carbondale set up COVID Task Force
For its part in the COVID-19 response, the town of Carbondale set up a special task force to deal with community needs during the crisis, including support for LIFT-UP’s mobile food pantry distributions and the Aspen Community Foundation’s relief efforts.
While the town repurposed its Parks and Recreation Department staff to help coordinate those efforts, it will not likely request CARES reimbursement for related personnel expenses, Town Manager Jay Harrington said.
Carbondale is eligible for nearly $593,000 in CARES Act funding to cover costs related to its response to the pandemic. But, for wages to be eligible for reimbursement, at least half of an employee’s time would have needed to be devoted to COVID-related work, Harrington said. In most cases, employees were still spending a majority of their time handling routine duties, he said.
“We anticipate putting in for reimbursement for the contract IT cost of converting to remote working, purchase of PPE, equipment supplied for businesses to expand outdoor spaces, public relations related to the Task Force, and community economic support …,” he said. “We are also currently exploring what type of support to the local business community would be the most beneficial and meet the requirements of the CARES Act.”
The Carbondale Chamber has also been conducting a business survey to provide town officials with some feedback on what gaps exist in the current economic support programs.
“We are also in discussions with the Aspen Community Foundation on residential rent relief and what is feasible under the CARES Act,” Harrington said.
Post Independent reporters Kyle Mills and John Stroud contributed to this report.
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