FAYETTEVILLE — Members of a resident committee on Friday recommended that the city council continue to propose the use of remaining coronavirus relief funds for health care purposes, but criticized the process that led to the decision.
The Community Development and Assistance Programs Advisory Board voted four-to-none to provide $557,298 in unspent money from the Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to two health care providers in the city. The recommendation will be included with the proposal that the city council will consider on Tuesday.
The proposal would split funds between the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and a community clinic. UAMS will get $483,430 for a mobile health unit to specifically serve the city, while the community clinic will get $73,868 to purchase covid-19-related equipment and supplies at clinic locations in the city.
Board members Natasha Coleman, Jacob Davies, Tim Shepherd and Vincent Wade voted in favor of the proposal. Emily English and Gladys Tiffany were absent.
Four members of the audience spoke to the board, along with city council members Mike Federker, Krista Langston and Lisa Smith with UAMS. The meeting lasted about an hour and 45 minutes.
The community clinic’s proposed $73,868 will go to equipment and supplies needed to administer coronavirus tests and vaccines at clinic sites on Martin Luther King Jr. Street, All Creek School and the mobile unit at the clinic that serves the city. The money will also go to the Fayetteville Clinics’ air purification units.
The $483,430 proposed for UAMS will go toward a mobile health unit specifically to serve the city. The mobile clinic will provide health visits, Covid and vaccination tests, prenatal care, diabetes screening, and routine immunizations for children, Langston said. It will serve people who find it difficult to seek medical care due to financial challenges, transportation challenges, or other concerns, she said.
The mobile unit will also provide other case management services, such as finding child care, food or meeting other basic needs, Langston said. UAMS will submit quarterly reports to the city on the mobile unit’s activities for a period of five years. She said the process could begin within 30 days of the city council’s decision, and the unit would move the city three to four days a week.
Smith said UAMS’s Department of Research and Community Health does not receive institutional funds and relies mostly on grant funding for specific purposes, similar to the proposal discussed Friday.
Advisory board members and the public said they would like to raise the issue of the unspent CARES funds publicly first, but said the proposed use of the funds would go toward a noble cause.
The city has to spend 80% of the money by the end of the year or return it to the federal government. If the board wants to recommend a different proposal, said Kelly Colebar, director of community resources, it will restart the public notification process as required by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, including a 30-day public comment period and getting a new proposal through the city council. . She said the earliest possible new program to be implemented would be from mid to late November.
HUD agreed to reallocate funds to UAMS and the community clinic on July 22. The Community Resources Division held a 30-day public comment period and hosted two public sessions on the proposal in June.
Members of the public have expressed the need to address housing and food insecurity associated with covid-19. Three of the four board members said the time crunch associated with the new proposal affected their decisions.
Davies said the process could have been more inclusive, and as a result, the board of directors may have been able to recommend healthcare support along with other needs such as housing and food insecurity.
Yolanda Fields, director of community resources, said her department is making changes to better communicate with the board and reach out to the community as a whole more effectively.
CARES . Law
The following list shows $992,482 of Fayetteville money used in the CARES Act so far:
• Rent/Utility Assistance – $237,536
• 7 Hills Safe Camp – $85,470
• Seeds That Feed – $32208
• St. James Missionary Baptist Church – $29,939
• Mortgage Assistance – 19,081 USD
• Welcome Health – $17,200
• Magdalene Serenity House – $8,750
• Peace in the Family Home Shelter – $5,000
Total – $435,184
Total Remaining Balance – $557,298