County Mayor Coppinger Says The Funds Will Be Used To Help Offset The Costs Of COVID Response. Chattanooga Mayor Berke Has His Own Ideas But Ultimately, It Will Be Left To The New Mayor. Candidates White And Kelly have Very Different Ideas For Relief Fund’s Usage.
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Published March 16, 2021
The Tennessee Conservative Staff-
Hamilton County, TN – As individuals begin to receive their much anticipated $1,4000 stimulus checks, state and local governments are planning for their portions of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief package as well.
Hamilton County and the city of Chattanooga stand to receive a total of $110 million of federal aid from the $350 billion allotted for state and local assistance.
Leaders acknowledge the opportunity this assistance will afford them in helping to cover a good deal of the expenses they have incurred as a result of the pandemic.
Hamilton County is slated to receive $70 million in funding. County Mayor Jim Coppinger says this will be used to help offset the costs of the county’s COVID response. The money will help to continue to provide supplies and staff for the County’s three COVID-19 vaccination sites, along with other expenses.
“We’re out several millions of dollars. And again, this money is going to be very helpful so that the taxpayers of this county don’t have to bear that responsibility,” Mayor Coppinger said.
Chattanooga is set to receive $40 million. Mayor Andy Berke says that, while some of the funding will be used to cover pandemic-related expenses, he anticipates funds to help businesses and families recover as well.
“We want to make sure that Hamilton County and Chattanooga have the resources that we need to help businesses recover to help families who may have lost their jobs, and of course, to help people get back on track after this horrific pandemic ends,” said Mayor Berke.
Berke continued, “Over the last year, we’ve seen more need for city action and city government to do things than we ever have before. And so these dollars can reimburse us for some of that and it can help us to maintain those services over time.”
At this point in the game, however, it is not just a decision for Berke to make. With his term ending in April, the two candidates who are vying for his position have their own ideas about how to spend the relief funds.
Tim Kelly and Kim White, who are in a runoff election to take Berke’s position on April 13, both agree that plans for spending should be coordinated with County Mayor Jim Coppinger.
Beyond that, though, their plans for the best way to use those funds are quite different.
Kelly says that he would focus on providing assistance to the communities that were hardest hit by the pandemic. He also said he would look into expanding programs such as early childhood interventions and helping small businesses.
“We can also look at some really creative programs to solve our food desert problems here. That’s something that’s happened partially as a result of the pandemic,” Kelly stated.
Kim White would like to use the funds to help boost the economy.
When ask what population would be a priority in that funding, she replied, “Small and medium sized businesses. Homeowners that have an opportunity where they could be evicted. How do we actually get to the people that lost their jobs? How can we actually provide workforce training programs, early childhood programs? I think it is looking at the people piece.”
Ultimately, all plans will go before the Hamilton County Commission for final approval.