City of Dalton to aid those suffering due to pandemic

Ryan Anderson/Daily Citizen-News

Volunteers sort food during the Gratefull food drive in Dalton in November. Because the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened food insecurity locally, the city of Dalton is using a portion of its second federal CARES Act allotment to provide meals for those in need.

The city of Dalton is using nearly $300,000 it received as part of the second federal CARES Act to provide food and rental help to those in need, and the City Council approved contracts with a local restaurant for the former and the Dalton-Whitfield Community Development Corp. for the latter during Monday's meeting.

CARES is an acronym for Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security.

The Oakwood Cafe won the bid process to provide meals to residents who live in low-income census tracts near the John Davis Recreation Center and the Mack Gaston Community Center through Feb. 16, at 5 p.m. daily, and this is the second time the city has used money for a meal delivery program in response to need caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the city.

Funds from the Community Development Block Grant program will pay for the meals, which will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis until they are gone, and while residents will not need to verify residency in the two census tracts, they will be asked to provide a name and address.

The Oakwood Cafe was the highest scoring applicant of five and will receive $60,480 from the city to provide 300 meals per day, said Dalton Chief Financial Officer Cindy Jackson. Applicants were scored by Atlanta-based consultants BluLynx LLC, so the process was "independent."

Only one applicant, the Dalton-Whitfield Community Development Corp., submitted to the city's request for proposals to administer services for the Community Development Block Grant COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to the city. The cost for this service will be $34,963.

As the consultant, the Dalton-Whitfield Community Development Corp. will assist low-income families and individuals who have suffered temporary financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis with delinquent residential rent, oversee rental help for tenants experiencing unforeseen financial setbacks and inability to pay rent due to income loss because of the pandemic, and can provide up to six months of emergency rental help for qualifying families within the city limits one time per household, according to the city. Tenants must have been current on rent payments prior to March 16, 2020, among other qualifications, in order to be eligible for this aid.

The city will make $174,814 available in rental help, but "we don't have the staff to administer this program," which is set to open Feb. 1, resulting in the contract with the Dalton-Whitfield Community Development Corp., Jackson said. "We will still monitor and oversee them," however.

The Dalton-Whitfield Community Development Corp. will not only approve applications and distribute the aid, but provide a valuable human touch, she said, noting, "They will counsel people on budgeting and other services."

The city partnered with Whitfield County and the North Georgia Health District to turn the Dalton Convention Center into a mass COVID-19 vaccination site Monday and Wednesday. City Council member Annalee Harlan, who was instrumental in establishing the convention center as a drive-thru vaccination site, hopes the community can offer more mass vaccinations in the near future.

Close consultation with the North Georgia Health District, which includes Whitfield County, allowed the city and county to establish a mass vaccination site in just a few days, but supply of the vaccine is a necessity, Harlan said.

"Our hurdle is availability of medication."

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