We have all had it with COVID-19, right? We hate wearing masks, keeping social distances between friends and family, possible hospitalization and ventilators, and worst of all, the loss of life among our circle of acquaintances, family members or fellow Americans.
But it occurred to me that — believe it or not — there actually is a silver lining to this horrible pandemic.
Here in Denton County, the federal government provided us with a $147 million grant to be used for COVID-related relief efforts. Very quickly, your county commissioners determined that we wanted to first address the businesses — particularly small business — that were being closed by the governor’s disaster declaration. With a true team effort, guidelines were established (i.e. Denton County owned/operated since at least 2019, able to actually show a revenue loss due to COVID-19, etc.) and an application form developed. The commissioners were hands-off as far as selecting which applicants would be awarded grants, with the decision being objectively determined within the county auditor’s office.
The county treasurer assisted in getting the checks out to the businesses as quickly as possible. The grants ranged from $2,500 to $25,000 in the first phase and up to $50,000 in the second phase depending upon the size of the business and its payroll. In total, $38,965,156 has been given to try and help Denton County businesses to maintain as many local jobs as possible and to make it through this difficult time.
Next, our attention turned to our residents, many of whom had lost their jobs and were having difficulty with their rent/mortgage payments, complicated by personal food shortages and issues. Rather than direct payments to individuals, the commissioners opted to partner with United Way to assist our county’s nonprofits who deal with these issues already. Our county communications director acted as our liaison to the United Way and kept us appraised of the grants’ progress as well as additional needs as they became apparent, resulting in partnering with local fresh food producers to aid area food banks and providing funding for needed additional refrigeration equipment.
In total, your county commissioners granted millions of dollars to help our fellow residents with food, shelter and other needs. Here is a breakdown of how those funds were spent:
$38.9 million-plus in grants to local businesses.
$2.11 million-plus in nonprofit grants.
$3.17 million-plus for food insecurity as well as expanding refrigerated capacity at area food pantries.
$6.6 million-plus on eviction prevention to assist 4,255 households by paying rent, mortgage and utilities.
$39.82 million-plus to towns and cities.
10,100-plus free COVID-19 tests.
1.27 million-plus masks, hand sanitizer, gloves, gowns, face shields, etc.
28,000-plus boxes of fruits and vegetables.
30,500-plus COVID-19 call center calls.
20,000 turkeys and hams for Thanksgiving and Christmas for families in need.
1,500 bags for long-term care facility residents dealing with isolation.
The federal monies also required that our county issue funds to each municipality in Denton County proportionately based on their populations.
The federal funds had “strings” attached regarding how they could be spent and also had very thorough transparency and accounting requirements. The deadline for these funds to be expended is Dec. 30.
While we certainly do not view it as a silver lining that so many of our fellow residents have been put out of work, are ill or are having trouble with food and shelter issues, this pandemic has provided us the opportunity to demonstrate our love and care for our neighbors. And doing what we should do gives hope both to ourselves and to others, which became that silver lining!