Homeless and COVID are a local concern

JOHNSTOWN — Homelessness among local COVID-19 patients was discussed at a recent Fulton County Board of Supervisors’ Human Services Committee meeting.

County Department of Social Services Commissioner Anne Solar received temporary committee authorization to have board Chairman Jack Callery sign a grant agreement. The agreement is between the Fulton County Public Health Department and Catholic Charities to obtain federal Emergency Solution Grant funding.

The full board will meet Monday for final approval.

“I’m making [the request] on behalf of public health,” Solar said. “We were approved for $17,000. We now have to enter into a contract with Catholic Charities.”

Solar noted that last September, a COVID Emergency Solutions Grant — a component of the 2020 CARES Act — allocated $227,209 to area organizations to address homelessness arising from COVID-19.

The funds are under the auspices of HUD and administered on the state level through the state Office of Temporary and Disability Services.

The plan includes $17,000 for the county health department for costs associated with housing COVID-positive or quarantined persons who had no alternate shelter or housing.

Solar said Catholic Charities of the Albany Catholic Diocese was named the contract monitor that subcontracts with local agencies to disperse the funds.

In other business, Solar said DSS was due to make a homeless count, which it does periodically. She said the process has become streamlined due to COVID.

Continuing on the subject of COVID, she said DSS had to have two quarantines – the week before Christmas and the week after New Year’s. She said three DSS quarantines were avoided by alternate schedules.

“I’m really proud we’ve been able to have about 70 percent of our staff [both full-time and part-time] working from home,” Solar said.

Currently, she said that DSS – the county’s largest department – has two COVID positive employees. Four are on quarantine. Two adults under department guardianship passed away from COVID, and another one has been deemed positive.

One foster child in Fulton County tested positive for COVID.

Solar also reported state revenues for DSS received from last August to Jan. 5 totalled $130,734. Witheld during the period was $43,398.

She said the biggest area of concern for budget reductions with DSS is a 5 percent reduction in child welfare funding.

By Patricia Older