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 within our circle of acquaintances, family members or fellow Americans.
But it occurred to me this week 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 $147M 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 – who 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, 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 $2500 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, $35,762,640.55 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 non-profits 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 $9.5 million to help our fellow residents with food, shelter and other needs. Here is a breakdown of how those funds were spent:
$35.7+ million in business grants
$1.6+ million in non-profit grants
$2.6+ million for food
$5.3+ million to prevent 3,500 households from eviction
$35.5+ million to towns and cities
10,100+ free COVID-19 tests
1.27 million+ masks, hand sanitizer, gloves, gowns, face shields, etc.
20,000+ boxes of fruits and vegetables
30,500+ COVID-19 call center calls
12,000 turkeys and hams for Thanksgiving for families in need
The federal monies also required that our county issue funds to each municipality in Denton County proportionately based on their populations. We distributed those monies as quickly as possible, and those entities in turn offered some additional assistance to their residents and businesses.
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 December 30. So, we are proud that we got into this process quickly (more quickly than most of our neighboring counties!) and have produced a really “best practices” template of utilizing these federal monies.
So, 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, as we people of faith are called to do. And doing what we should do gives hope both to ourselves and to others, which became that silver lining!
And now, our hope at last has been rewarded. Not only are several new COVID treatment protocols now available, but at least three vaccines (as of this writing) are on the near horizon, and once they are in wide use, our lives can begin to return to some semblance of normality.
BUT this pandemic is NOT over. The number of cases continues to soar as our testing numbers increase. So, though we are all COVID-fatigued, we cannot let our guard down against it. To date, about 21,000 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed here in Denton County resulting in about 150 deaths. Our county’s cases are about equally divided between males and females, with most infections occurring in the 20-29 age range. As might be expected, the fewest cases are in the 70 and up ages, though this group is the most fatally affected. To track Denton County cases by age or geography or to find out about current free testing, you may visit www.dentoncounty.gov/COVID19testing.
So, stay strong, stay safe and stay on guard against this invisible enemy… an enemy which I firmly believe soon will be defeated!
Commissioner Dianne Edmondson may be reached at her Southwest County Courthouse office at 6200 Canyon Falls Drive in Flower Mound or by phone at 972-434-3960. To receive her periodic e-newsletter, please request it at [email protected]