‘An army of people’: Carbondale creates COVID-19 task force
Carbondale officially ratified the emergency task force organized to coordinate relief efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Board of Trustees also voted to allocate $10,000 to LIFT-UP, which has been providing meals to Carbondale residents two days per week, and another $10,000 to the Aspen Community Foundation for Carbondale relief efforts.
The Carbondale Emergency Task Force started in March, led by Mayor Dan Richardson. The group includes representatives from Carbondale Chamber and Carbondale Tourism, Carbondale Arts, Carbondale Police Department, and other community volunteers.
The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to authorize the task force, which will push several key initiatives during the pandemic including, but not limited to:
Advocating for greater availability of testing for the novel coronavirus
Advocating for more protective equipment for health workers
Encouraging landlords to refrain from rent increases, evictions, foreclosures and service fee hikes
Advocating for a moratorium on eviction proceedings and relaxation of mortgage deadlines
Encouraging residents and businesses to abide by social distancing guidelines
The task force also is coordinating many volunteer relief programs, and in the past few weeks has grown substantially.
“This has turned into a really large effort,” Richardson said.
“The task force has probably over 100 volunteers working for it right now. We have over 50 partners, and I think we have around 20 neighborhood heroes,” he said.
The neighborhood heroes are assigned a specific part of town (which is divided into about 100 districts for this purpose) and act as coordinators for relief, Richardson said, making sure everyone in their area is aware of resources and connecting them with services if needed.
Many volunteers are runners, bringing meals or other necessary supplies to people throughout town.
There are other smaller initiatives that the task force is involved in, as well.
“There’s a masks group for our valley where people are sewing and making masks for the general public and for our health care workers,” Richardson said.
Others are working to try and source local food to LIFT-UP in case the charity has difficulty with food supply chains.
“There’s just an army of people making all this happen,” Richardson said.
One major focus of the task force is creating a system to understand the extent of the crisis, Richardson said.
“We’re building a dashboard so we understand how many beds are available, how many people are sick, how many are out of work,” Richardson said.
“That’s been a little bit more work than we anticipated, so the dashboard is still in development phase. But the idea is, we’ll build a dashboard and then we’ll offer the support that the dashboard indicates is necessary,” Richardson said.
The town didn’t have any official requests for grants, but Richardson suggested that the town put some money toward relief efforts.
How much to give is a difficult decision, and the trustees agreed that caution was important in the uncertainty.
Carbondale’s revenues were in good shape at the beginning of the year, Town Manager Jay Harrington said, but what sales tax will be like the rest of the year is anyone’s guess.
“It’s obviously going to be a significant reduction, (but) whether it’s 15, 20 or 40 percent is a really a moving target based on who’s modeling you’re looking at for local municipalities,” Harrington said.
LIFT-UP and the Aspen Community Foundation were selected as recipients of the first round of funding in part because the town has close relationships with those groups.
The Aspen Community Foundation can deliver grants to other nonprofits in the Carbondale area that need funding for COVID-19 relief programs.
Emergency funding, which comes from the town reserves, will be revisited in several weeks at the next town board meeting.
“This is a time when we should be using our reserves. This is what we save them for,” Trustee Marty Silverstein said.
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