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NCCo plans to focus future COVID relief funds on underserved communities

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
New Castle County purchased the Hope Center, a hotel turned homeless shelter, with federal COVID relief money last year

New Castle County Council resolved to focus future federal coronavirus relief money on underserved communities Tuesday.

The resolutionNew Castle County Council unanimously approved says beyond reimbursing lost revenue and "direct costs of the fight against COVID-19," the County’s discretionary relief spending should be looked at through a lens of equity and social justice. 

The County received more than $320 million in federal COVID relief last year under the CARES act. 

Councilman Penrose Hollins, who co-sponsored the resolution, says there wasn’t necessarily a problem with the way the County distributed its relief funds so far, but that stating a plan for future funding can’t hurt.

“This pandemic, it has really put a spotlight on these underserved communities, or vulnerable populations or whatever designation you want to give them,” Hollins said during Council’s Finance Committee meeting Tuesday. “I think this to me just says we here in New Castle County want to make certain that we are in fact prioritizing these communities.”

The resolution also specifies that any allocations will need to go through legislative action by Council. 

New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer notes the County directed some of last year’s relief funds to underserved communities— including through a health equity fund, WiFi hotspots and the hotel the county purchased and turned into a homeless shelter. 

“Are you asking me have we done enough? No,” Meyer said in an interview Tuesday, before the resolution passed. “I absolutely don’t think we’ve done enough. If you look across our county community, across our state, across our country, those disparate impacts are still being felt.”

Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package includes $350 billion for state and local governments nationwide, but that figure faces some opposition.

The bill isset for a vote on the House floor at the end of the week. The Senate is then expected to take up the legislation and try to modify it.

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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