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Federal aid going to Nassau shelters, food pantries for COVID-19 response

Volunteers with Island Harvest distribute food today in

Volunteers with Island Harvest distribute food today in Levittown. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau County will distribute $12.8 million in federal aid to homeless shelters, food pantries and other nonprofits to assist residents struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Nassau County Legislature on Monday approved the county's plan for allocating $8.5 million in federal Community Development Block Grants, and $4.25 million in Emergency Solutions Grants contained in the federal CARES Act passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump.

The $8.5 million in block grants will go to food pantries and health service providers, and to purchase personal protective equipment. Funds also will also go for mediation of landlord/tenant disputes to avoid evictions, child care to help parents who are in school or working, employment training and support for small businesses.

The $4.25 million in CARES Act funding will go in large part to emergency shelters.

Top expenditures will include:

  • $1 million for food banks to use to collect, distribute and purchase food and personal protective equipment for low-income residents. Funds also can be used to buy refrigerators, ovens and vehicles needed to collect and deliver food.
  • $600,000 for health services including administration of health screenings, and provision of technology for telehealth screenings.
  • $600,000 for mental health screenings and substance abuse counseling for low-income residents. 
  • $200,000 for employment training for unemployed individuals or the recently incarcerated seeking to re-enter society.
  • $200,000 for child care services to help working or student parents.
  • $100,000 for legal assistance for mediation of landlord-tenant disputes. 

The federal funding also includes $2 million for job creation by private companies that can demonstrate a majority of the positions will go to people in moderate or low-income households. Another $2.5 million is available for construction or rehabilitation of public facilities in low- or moderate-income communities. 

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The county also earmarked $1.475 million to provide housing relocation and rental assistance for families on the verge of having to move to emergency shelters, and $2 million to renovate emergency shelters to comply with COVID-19 regulations.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said in an interview that food sites opened by the county are drawing many visitors.

Curran said that, "just shows the needs — people are losing their paychecks, they can't buy food for their families — and we want to do everything we can to make sure that people come to the other side of this pandemic — that all communities have a chance to make it to the other side."

Curran continued, "The lines of people either in their cars, or walking, it's a staggering amount of people who need the food. I'm happy that we can use this money to buy food for people who need it."

Legislative Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said the legislature held an emergency vote to accept the federal money to "bolster critical county services."
Nicolello said, "We will continue to do all we can to secure the resources needed so that our county continues to provide our residents the services they need in this difficult time.”

Also Monday, the legislature's Rules Committee approved $497,000 to purchase 500,000 three-ply masks to protect county first responders and medical professionals. The masks will be worn primarily by patients in hospitals, but can be used by medical professionals, according to legislative documents.

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