FAYETTEVILLE -- Members of a resident panel on Friday recommended the City Council carry through with a proposal to use leftover coronavirus relief money for health care purposes but criticized the process leading up to the decision.
The Community Development and Assistance Programs Advisory Board voted 4-0 to provide $557,298 in unspent money from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to two health care providers in the city. The recommendation will be included with the proposal the City Council will consider Tuesday.
The proposal would split the money between the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Community Clinic. UAMS would receive $483,430 for a mobile wellness unit to specifically serve the city, while Community Clinic would get $73,868 to buy equipment and supplies related to covid-19 at the clinic's locations in the city.
Board members Natasha Coleman, Jacob Davies, Tim Shepard and Vincent Waide voted in favor of the proposal. Emily English and Gladys Tiffany were absent.
Four members of the public spoke to the board, along with City Council member Mike Wiederkehr and Krista Langston and Lisa Smith with UAMS. The meeting lasted about 1 hour and 45 minutes.
The $73,868 proposed for Community Clinic would go toward equipment and supplies needed to administer covid-19 tests and vaccines at the clinic's locations on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Owl Creek School and the clinic's mobile unit serving the city. Money also would go toward air filtration units for the Fayetteville clinics.
The $483,430 proposed for UAMS would go toward a mobile wellness unit to serve the city specifically. The mobile clinic would provide wellness visits, covid testing and vaccinations, prenatal care, diabetes screening and routine pediatric vaccinations, Langston said. It would serve people who have difficulty seeking medical care because of financial or transportation challenges or because of other concerns, she said.
The mobile unit also would provide other case management services, such as finding child care, food or addressing other essential needs, Langston said. UAMS would report quarterly to the city on the mobile unit's activities for five years. The operation could begin within 30 days of a City Council decision, and the unit would travel the city three to four days a week, she said.
Smith said the Community Health and Research division of UAMS does not receive institutional money and relies mostly on grant funding for specific purposes, similar to the proposal discussed Friday.
Members of the advisory board and the public said they wished the issue of unspent CARES Act money had come up publicly first but said the proposed use of the money would go toward a worthy cause.
The city has to spend 80% of the money by the end of the year or give it back to the federal government. Kelly Colebar, community resources administrator, said if the board wanted to recommend a different proposal, it would restart the public notification process as required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, including a 30-day public comment period and getting a new proposal through the City Council. The earliest a new program could be implemented would be mid- to late November, she said.
HUD approved reallocating the money to UAMS and Community Clinic on July 22. The Community Resources Division held a 30-day public comment period and hosted two public input sessions about the proposal in June.
Members of the public expressed the need to address housing and food insecurity related to covid-19. Three of four board members said the time crunch associated with a new proposal impacted their decisions.
Davies said the process could have been more inclusive, and as a result, perhaps the board could have recommended supporting health care along with other needs such as housing and food insecurity.
Community Resources Director Yolanda Fields said her department is making changes to better communicate with the board and reach the community at large more effectively.
The following list breaks down the use of Fayetteville’s $992,482 in CARES Act money so far:
• Rent/utility assistance — $237,536
• 7 Hills Safe Camp — $85,470
• Seeds That Feed — $32,208
• St. James Missionary Baptist Church — $29,939
• Mortgage assistance — $19,081
• Welcome Health — $17,200
• Magdalene Serenity House — $8,750
• Peace at Home Family Shelter — $5,000
Total — $435,184
Total remaining balance — $557,298