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Las Cruces Increases COVID Aid Nearly $1M for Housing, Food

The City Council has authorized $977,000 to help local organizations combat the financial damages of the pandemic. Since April, the city has already approved $3.25 million for COVID response.

(TNS) — The Las Cruces, N.M., City Council has again increased COVID-19 economic aid by nearly a million dollars largely toward food distribution and housing assistance.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the city council authorized $977,000 to be drawn from the Telshor Facility Fund to be used to help residents still hurting from the ongoing economic crisis stemming from the deadly pandemic.

The city has already approved more than $3.25 million on various economic aid initiatives, testing, personal protective equipment and other pandemic-related initiatives since April 2020 mostly from the Telshor Fund. Some has come out of the city's General Fund.

More than 2,000 households have been assisted with rent, mortgage or utility payments with the aid, the city said. The funding has also provided about 46,000 meals and 46,000 masks and hand sanitizer kits. The Telshor Fund is made up of the city’s share of lease payments made by Memorial Medical Center's private operators. The reserve fund contained $46 million at the end of December, the city said.

The council last drew aid from the Telshor Fund in August, when it approved its largest one-time sum of pandemic assistance — $1.4 million.

Chief Budget Officer Leann DeMouche said the Telshor and General funds have been reimbursed by drawing from $13 million in federal aid secured through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The aid is intended to help the organizations through the end of the current fiscal year.

Here’s where the funding approved Feb. 16 is going:

  • $180,000 to the city’s parks department for personal protective equipment, disinfectant, partitions and security patrols for parks. The patrols enforce COVID-19 protocols at parks.
  • $150,000 to Families and Youth, Inc. for the mayors meals program and other food initiatives such as the pandemic restaurant voucher program.
  • $150,000 to Mesilla Valley Community of Hope to administer a “rapid rehousing” program, help with homeless prevention and to administer housing and mortgage assistance.
  • $100,000 to Catholic Charities of Southern New Mexico for housing assistance programs. $100,000 to pay for sanitization at city facilities and other supplies at facilities.
  • $100,000 to Casa de Peregrinos for operating supplies, such as paying staff and stocking food.
  • $75,000 to La Casa for housing and emergency shelter, cleaning and supplies.
  • $55,000 to the Boys and Girls Club to continue operating expanded programming which accommodates more children for longer during the day.
  • $42,000 to the city’s fire department for personal protective equipment, sanitization gear and other supplies.
  • $25,000 to Loaves & Fishes food pantry to pay for food programs for the low-income and elderly.

Other Aid Repurposed

The city council also voted to repurpose $100,000 of Telshor money. With Tuesday’s approval, the Community Action Agency of Southern New Mexico will be allowed to use $50,000 in city aid to help cover families’ funeral costs, a repurpose request it first made in November.

CAASNM originally requested to repurpose all $75,000 of aid it received last October for child care assistance. Dawn Hommer, the nonprofit's Chief Executive Officer, said while the need was great as deaths spiked in the fall, requests for COVID-related funeral assistance have decreased in the three months since the request was made.

"At this time, we would like $50,000 and will only request the additional $25,000 if needed in the future," Hommer said in an email.

District 4 Councilor Johana Bencomo said she was concerned about the three-month wait in granting the repurpose request. She said the city should consider a way to reimburse families who have already had to pay burdensome costs to bury loved ones who have died from COVID-19.

City legal staff were unsure about the feasibility of such a program.

Another $50,000 will be repurposed for the “COVID to Home/Hotel” program, which provides electronic remote monitoring equipment for patients recovering from COVID-19 either at home or in a hotel room after being discharged from a hospital.

That funding was originally budgeted for hotel rooms for first responders trying to limit contact with family due to the virus. City Communications Director Mandy Guss said those costs were covered using other sources.

The program uses technology provided by the Las Cruces-based company Electronic Caregiver. The equipment has been paid for since November by Doña Ana County. Now, the city will join in covering that cost, according to county Health and Human Services Director Jamie Michael. The effect of the endeavor has been to prevent a scarcity of hospital beds and avoid crisis standards of care resulting from a surge in COVID-19 patients.

On Tuesday, DeMouche said the city has spent at least $19.7 million on its COVID-19 response using city funds, federal dollars and grant funding.

(c)2021 the Las Cruces Sun-News (Las Cruces, N.M.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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