MERIDIAN–Three separate proposals to increase staffing at the city’s Department of Health and Human Services, provide housing and support services for victims of domestic violence, and create a marketing program for small businesses affected by the pandemic, received initial approval from the U.S. Bailout Steering Committee this week.
The committee, which met remotely by video conference Monday night, voted to present the three proposals to the city council. The three votes were unanimous.
The board will address funding requests when it meets on January 18.
If the council allows it, they will be funded by the $36.3 million federal US bailout bill appropriation for the city.
Health and Human Services has submitted a funding request of over $1.275 million. The proposal would add a full-time public health nurse in the school health offices to provide day care, along with an administrative nurse to oversee the city’s entire school health program and a public health clinic supervisor to oversee the department’s clinic operations.
As per the department’s request, the position of Director of Nursing is currently vacant since 2018. The position of Clinic Supervisor will be newly created – tasked with overseeing the administration of immunizations, infectious disease screening, school health registration and other responsibilities.
“Currently, the Associate Director of Health (an RN) oversees school health responsibilities and oversight of the clinic,” the officials wrote in the application. “…there is a need for the positions of RN Manager and Supervisor so that the position of Associate Director can assist the manager in the department’s administrative responsibilities.”
The app said that employees in the department have been working seven days a week since February 2020 to address conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The appointment of a Public Health Nurse Officer and the creation of a new Public Health Clinic supervisor position, as well as an additional RN in our schools, will allow for greater in-house capacity to respond to COVID-19 and establish/implement/evaluate direct essential public health services,” the application stated. “It will also free up time for current employees so that we can continue to respond to current and emerging public health and human services concerns and issues in our community.”
Crown, while presenting to the steering committee, described the current workload of its management as “unsustainable” with its current staff.
“Staff are incredibly exhausted,” Crown said, adding later that she considered the jobs “essential.”
Mayor Kevin Scarpatty, a member of the committee, said he supported the proposal.
“It’s clear and obvious that there is a need,” Scarpati said.
City Councilman Bruce Fontanella asked Crown if the three proposed positions would have any bearing on her time commitments and responsibilities.
Crown replied that filling the supervisor position alone would create a “domino effect”.
“It would take a lot of the workload off the Assistant Director of Health, who could then take on some of my responsibilities,” Crown said, noting that there were many “things that couldn’t be done now while everyone else [of us] They wear multiple hats.”
Meriden-Wallingford Chrysalis Inc. , a local nonprofit that provides housing support and other services to victims of domestic violence, raised $618,000 in funding over three years.
“As a result of the COVID pandemic, our use of services is three times the average of requests, and Chrysalis is facing budget constraints due to a lack of funds for all programs, particularly our transitional housing program,” the agency’s request said.
Chrysalis was one of a small number of domestic violence centers that “never closed or moved to remote services only during Covid,” the agency said, while making clear that some operational procedures had been adjusted to ensure safety.
The need to increase housing and service support in our community is clear. Domestic violence and sexual assault affect 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men. Trauma can have a profound and lasting effect. The applicants wrote that recovery without support systems, both internal and external, is almost impossible.
The agency has received notice that the federal funding it has received for a long time to provide direct assistance to clients has been on hold for at least one year.
“This request is an urgent need because it will help serve our existing employees and help us continue to support community members at the same level of direct financial assistance to clients,” the request stated. As requested, the funds will enable the agency to continue its transitional housing programs and other programs aimed at helping clients gain financial independence.
Several members of the Steering Committee, prior to voting for the application, made statements acknowledging the need for services such as those offered by Meriden-Wallingford Chrysalis.
City councilor and committee chair Yvette Cortez noted that crisis services, such as those provided by the agency, across the country are being tapped at a “very high rate.” She described those services as “very important”.
City Councilman Michael Ruddy similarly stated that incidents of domestic violence “have skyrocketed.”
“These are the most vulnerable people in our society,” Rudy said, adding that they include single mothers trapped in situations with their abusers.
“I have a lot of sympathy for these poor people who really need help and support to get out of a dangerous situation and get on with their lives,” Rudd said, describing Chrysalis itself as an “ally” for these individuals.
The Steering Committee’s third application is a $300,000 joint application called “Meriden Business Boost” submitted as a partnership involving city economic development officials, the Central Chamber of Commerce and RJ Media Group, which owns Record-Journal.
The app describes a partnership aimed at helping local businesses recover from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. Applicants pledged that ARPA funding would be matched by RJ Media Group’s contribution of $300,000.
The funds will enable small businesses to receive what applicants describe as “high-impact multimedia marketing grants,” which include print, digital, video and social media marketing. In a presentation, applicants described the grants as marketing free.
Applicants describe a plan to provide $4,000 in multimedia marketing grants to at least 150 Meriden companies that will be used over a period of two to four months.
As part of the application, companies that have recently joined the Intermediate Chamber of Commerce will receive a $50 discount on membership fees. Existing members will receive a $50 credit to use on advertising.
Applicants noted the success of the previous $100,000 grant received by RJ Media Group during Summer 2020 from Facebook. The company used that money to provide free marketing campaigns, worth $120,000, to 40 local nonprofit agencies.
RJ Media Group Executive Vice President and Record-Journal Publisher Liz White Notarangelo explained that these campaigns will be customized according to each company’s goals.
White Notarangelo said her company is working with hundreds of local businesses, which “we know are still affected every day” by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. She described a goal of helping “as many companies as possible recover and thrive”.
Joseph Fest, Meridian’s director of economic development, described the proposal as a way to stimulate the local economy.
Scarpaty, while describing the proposal’s local focus as “what exactly is ARP money,” questioned why applicants would choose a cap — 25 full-time employees — on the maximum number of employees for companies that would benefit from marketing grants.
The reason, Fest said, is to ensure the grants go to “small mom-and-pop stores rather than your larger national chains.”
After extensive discussion, the committee voted to recommend the application with Scarpati’s proposed modification – 50 of the 150 grants would be directed to companies with 25 or fewer full-time employees.
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