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This page offers all of Delaware Public Media's ongoing coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it is affecting the First State. Check here regularly for the latest new and information.

How almost $7 million in federal relief grants could be spent in Delaware

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media

Delaware will receive close to $7 million in grants under the coronavirus relief bill signed by the President late last month. But it will be weeks until the money is spendable. 

City and county governments in Delaware are set to receive millions in coronavirus relief grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the CARES Act


HUD Regional Administrator Joe DeFelice says it will be 30 to 45 days until localities can spend the funds. But DeFelice says municipalities can start planning projects now. 

The funding will come to municipalities and the state through existing grant programs, but with increased flexibility as to how it can be used. 

New Castle County, the City of Wilmington, the City of Dover and the Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA) will receive more than $4.3 million in combined Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding under the Act. 

"I don't think anyone really saw this coming, so nobody necessarily budgeted properly." - Joe DeFelice, HUD


Wilmington, New Castle County and DSHA will receive more than $2 million in combined Emergency Solutions grant funding, which is targeted toward helping individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

Wilmington and DSHA get more than $160,000 in combined Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) funding under the Act. The Ministry of Caring and Connections Community Support Programs each received more than $80,000 in competitive HOPWA grants. 

DSHA administers funding, considered non-entitlement, in Kent and Sussex Counties. 

DeFelice says the CDBG funding can be used in new ways. 

The CARES Act-related CDBG funds can be used to build medical facilities for testing and treatment or replace HVAC systems to temporarily transform commercial buildings or closed school buildings into clinics or treatment centers, according to HUD. They can also be used to support businesses manufacturing medical supplies, train healthcare workers, or acquire a motel or hotel building to expand the capacity of hospitals for isolating patients during recovery.

“We saw this in Philadelphia. They recently took a Holiday Inn Express,” said DeFelice. “They’re doing it in Baltimore city to house homeless people.”

Late last month, New Castle County and the City of Wilmington collaborated to use $2,500 of prior Community Development Block Grant money to install two outdoor bathroom and handwashing stations in the City of Wilmington. The project was an effort to mitigate the effect of library and day program closures on people experiencing homelessness. 

DeFelice says federal funding for localities to address the coronavirus is necessary. 

“Something like this hasn’t happened in 100 years,” he said. “I don’t think anyone really saw this coming, so nobody necessarily budgeted properly. Like how do you budget for sporting events and mass transit and everything just being shut down. So the problem that we run into now is everybody is moving quickly and trying to get up to speed.”


The City of Wilmington, New Castle County and DSHA all do not yet have plans as to how to spend the new grants, according to representatives. 

“This much needed infusion of federal funds will help to mitigate the devastating effects of the COVID-19 crisis on Wilmington’s most disadvantaged residents,” said Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki in a statement. “We will continue to work with our federal delegation and agencies throughout this continuing crisis because we are united in our efforts to ensure that vulnerable City residents are sheltered, fed and safe.”

"DSHA is navigating the available and pending guidance from HUD on the use of these funds and coordinating with the other jurisdictions and stakeholders like Housing Alliance Delaware (lead agency for the Delaware Continuum of Care) to determine what the most urgent needs are in Delaware," said DSHA spokesperson Jessica Eisenbrey in an email. 

In a statement, Senator Tom Carper called the funding “crucial” for the most vulnerable populations in Delaware — including the homeless and immunocompromised. 

Senator Chris Coons said in his role on the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, he will continue to identify ways the federal government can bolster local efforts to fight COVID-19.


DeFelice says Delaware and other states with approved disaster declarations could receive additional disaster relief funding from HUD down the line.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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