Dubuque County supervisors March 18 approved hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial assistance to be distributed to nonprofits helping the most at-risk populations amid the global COVID-19 outbreak.
The allocations, which total $300,000, came just two days after supervisors voted to distribute $950,000 to county departments to prepare for the arrival of the disease, a respiratory virus that has infected more than 200,000 people worldwide.
The first $200,000 approved March 18 will go to the Disaster Recovery Fund/COVID-19, launched that same day by the Community Foundation for Greater Dubuque.
The fund has been activated seven times before, according to foundation Executive Director Nancy Van Milligen. Previous crises the fund addressed include 2011 flooding in Dubuque and the 2017 tornado in McGregor, Iowa.
Van Milligen said the fund was created to correct past problems with funds raised following disasters.
“When we had the big flood in (2008), we had 15 organizations going out raising funds,” she said. “There was no coordination. We still don’t know where a lot of that money ended up.”
Van Milligen said the foundation first will provide money to nonprofits supporting low-income and at-risk residents.
The allocation nearly was stymied, however, when Supervisor Jay Wickham initially failed to get a second for his motion to approve the funding. Supervisors Dave Baker and Ann McDonough said they wanted to wait to address the request until Monday.
“Getting from today to Monday and taking action is not going to make an impact in terms of funds,” Baker said.
Wickham had Van Milligen respond to that.
“If you agreed to funding today, I would make additional grants to other nonprofit organizations,” she said. “If you wait until Monday, I will have to wait until Monday.”
That information, Baker said, changed his mind. He and Wickham then voted to approve the package.
“This is a time for leadership and to act, not a time to ponder, not to pontificate,” Wickham said.
McDonough insisted that the action trampled on due process.
“We are beholden to our taxpayers,” she said. “There is a line between responsive and responsible.”
The supervisors also unanimously approved a $100,000 funding increase for Resources Unite, the organization contracted to administer the county’s general assistance program.
“The demographics coming in our office are already changing,” Josh Jasper, Resources Unite’s executive director, said. “We will always see the unemployed and underemployed, but we’re seeing the caseworker at Hills & Dales or someone working at Hillcrest (Family Services).”
Supervisors approved $50,000 more for rent assistance, $25,000 for utility payment assistance and $25,000 for increased staffing through June.