Aug. 5—Requests for federal COVID relief funds for various community projects are making their way through county committees as local businesses and departments seek financial relief from pandemic losses.
The Effingham County ARPA Committee met Thursday to hear and discuss funding requests from the county's child care research committee, probation department, and the county museum.
The Effingham County Child Care Research Committee, represented by Effingham Regional Growth Alliance President and CEO Courtney Yockey, provided the committee with a detailed account of the programs they are seeking funding. The first of these is a program aimed at retaining licensed child care centers and providers in Effingham County by giving local providers stipends. In addition to retaining staff, the committee also hopes to expand child care services by reopening closed classrooms. The committee is currently requesting $150,000 to fund the program.
Yockey also requested $150,000 in ARPA funds for a Gap Scholarship program that would provide financial assistance to families are not eligible for the Illinois Child Care Assistance Program due to income level, but are still unable to find affordable child care. Yockey claims that this puts a strain on the county's workforce.
"In my opinion, it's a work force development issue. It's something that has been an issue for a log time, but COVID most certainly put a spotlight on it," Yockey said.
The last $100,000 of the committee's $400,000 request would go toward increasing the capacity and effectiveness of local child care centers and providers by having Child Care Research and Referrals educate new and existing providers.
The ARPA committee earmarked the requested $400,000, but not until pressing Yockey on the feasibility of the programs. Yockey reassured committee members, expressing his faith in the programs' potential to make child care more accessible and increase employment. Yockey emphasized the urgent need for the funding.
"All this needed to be done yesterday," Yockey said.
The requested funding would be enough to provide 60 families with $300 of financial support a month. The $400,000 request will go before the Effingham County Tax and Finance Committee for further discussion on Aug. 11 at 3:30 p.m.
Effingham County Cultural Center and Museum President Delaine Donaldson requested ARPA funding for the Effingham County Courthouse Museum. Donaldson said the number of visitors coming to the museum has gone down since the start of the pandemic began. In an effort to attract more visitors, Donaldson is seeking funding to make improvements to the museum that he believes could bring national accreditation. Donaldson said he wants to bring even more "class" to the museum.
Donaldson described to the committee how his two-fold plan is focused on bringing in more unique items and expanding storage for both the museum's database and the items recorded in the database. Donaldson requested $26,000 for the upgrades, and the committee voted to approve the request until further review by the county board.
The ARPA committee also heard a request from Effingham County Probation Department Chief Managing Officer Cheryl Meyers. Meyers requested funds to purchase a new drug testing machine as the current machine is "on its last leg."
The new machine would cost $35,000, but due to a discount, the price of the machine will be closer to $33,000. Meyer said buying the machine rather than renting it, which the county does now, would eventually save the county $30,000. The request will need further reviewed by committees before being voted on.
Nick Taylor can be reached at email@example.com or by phone at 618-510-9226 or 217-347-7151 ext. 300132.