Posted: April 28, 2020
April 27, 2020
For Immediate Release
Re: Winneshiek County Development Secures Funding To Support Winneshiek County COVID19 Programs
Stephanie Fromm, Winneshiek County Development and Tourism
Winneshiek County Development and Tourism (WCDT) recently helped Winneshiek County secure $11,040 through an Iowa Economic Development Authority Community Development Block Grant. The funding will be used to support innovative COVID-19 programs in Winneshiek County.
Stephanie Fromm, Executive Director for Winneshiek County Development and Tourism, stated “The funding was made available at a time when many of us were struggling to figure out what our communities, businesses, and residents would need to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. We wanted to maximize the structures, resources and programs our agencies and organizations already had while filling in the gaps that no one could have imagined would occur during a pandemic.”
WCDT Project Coordinator Lora Friest, who put the proposal together, noted that the proposal requested funding for equipment and new programs. “At first we thought we were going to be able to secure $45,000 in funding for COVID-19 testing equipment for our hospital and another $5,500 for communications equipment for our emergency personnel. That was everyone’s first priority. But, after the federal stimulus included millions for equipment through Homeland Security, the grant funder, the Iowa Economic Development Authority, decided equipment was no longer eligible. They ultimately limited the grant award to new programs designed to help communities deal with the COVID-19 crisis. While we weren’t able to get the funding we wanted for equipment, we were able to secure funding for two new initiatives that will help residents throughout the county.” Fromm noted that when the equipment was declared ineligible under the Economic Development grant award guidelines she began working with Sean Snyder, the Winneshiek County Emergency Management Coordinator, who was simultaneously drafting a request to Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management for COVID-19 testing equipment. Fromm contacted federal legislators to secure letters of support to go with the request Mr. Snyder was submitting. “Mr. Snyder mentioned that the request to Homeland Security and Emergency Management, which has a regional focus, is a longshot so we wanted to help him demonstrate federal support.”
Through the grant, Northeast Iowa Community Action will receive $7,040 to implement a new food delivery program to rural residents. The program will help community members, especially elderly, at-risk, rural community members who used to come to town to eat meals at senior centers in Decorah and Calmar. Friest stated “Due to the pandemic, the senior centers just can’t serve food anymore. Although Meals on Wheels, whose services have been increasing daily, is doing a phenomenal job getting food to people in our towns, we realized there are alot of rural residents that weren’t being reached. Northeast Iowa Community Action offered the use of their EARL public transit vans to deliver food to those at-risk rural residents. Because of the pandemic, they are not able to use them to transport people so they were available for this temporary use.” An estimated two thirds of the people who were previously served at Congregate Meal Sites live in rural areas of the county. Trisha Wilkins, Executive Director of Northeast Iowa Community Action Corporation noted “NEICAC wanted to be responsive to our community needs during this crisis and is grateful for the resources that allow for our EARL Transit to provide food delivery in Winneshiek County. We intend to help those who need it most in addition to doing our part to encourage everyone to stay home.” Fromm mentioned that the program meets multiple goals stating “It uses existing transportation vehicles, employs drivers, and helps us keep rural residents safe and healthy.”
The other $4,000 of grant funds will be used to maximize community volunteerism through the Decorah and Winneshiek County Mutual Aid Network. The Network is a new online and phone call platform set up to help residents connect during the COVID-19 crisis. People can find information about where they can get help and how they can help others during this difficult time, including information about community services, which businesses will deliver food, local job openings, who has financial assistance available for community members, businesses, and others. Fromm noted that WCDT worked with Decorah Now and the Decorah Faith Coalition, with support from the Winneshiek Board of Supervisors, to get the Network started but that the need for the Network has extended longer than expected. “At the beginning, when we helped develop the Mutual Aid Network, I don’t think any of us thought that the crisis would go on so long. The funding will help us keep the part-time Administrator of the Network for a few more months until we get through this crisis.” Fromm added that the response to the new Network has been overwhelming and additional funds will also help expand volunteer coordination and social media management saying “New information that needs to be distributed to the public from many different sources is coming in daily and over a hundred volunteers are helping with various efforts.