SNOW HILL – Worcester County officials are in the process of awarding CARES Act funding to local fire companies.
After fire company officials voiced frustration over unanswered requests to the Worcester County Commissioners last week, county staff are now preparing to issue fire companies checks with what’s left of the county’s CARES funding.
“We are definitely heading in a good direction,” said Tim Jerscheid, who serves as president of the Worcester County Fire Chiefs Association.
Last Wednesday, representatives from the county’s fire service met with the commissioners to express frustration over unanswered requests for funding from the county’s $4.5 million CARES Act allocation. The commissioners instructed staff to meet and review fire company requests as a result. While $80,000 had been allocated for fire companies, the commissioners said at the meeting that there could be other unused CARES funds available as well.
Weston Young, the county’s assistant chief administrative officer, said staff spent several days late last week reviewing all the companies’ COVID-19 requests. In addition to the $80,000 previously set aside, the county also identified an additional $150,000 that had been put aside to purchase permitting software that will now be used for fire companies instead.
“While we will not be able to address every request, this will be very helpful to the companies receiving funds,” Young said.
Jerscheid said that while the companies hadn’t yet received funding, fire officials were satisfied with the progress now being made.
“It’s heading in a better direction than it was last week,” he said.
Jerscheid said last week’s meeting was the result of a “major breakdown” in communication with county staff.
“We knew the money was there,” he said. “I just think from the fire service standpoint our seat at the table was forgotten about.”
He’s hopeful that fire companies will now get much needed funding that will help them cover primarily the personnel costs associated with adjusting operations because of COVID-19.
Going forward, fire chiefs are planning to meet with the commissioners in the spring regarding annual funding, as even before the pandemic fire companies were facing financial difficulties.
“It’s a bad situation,” Jerscheid said. “This year we’re going to try to come up with a better funding formula.”