Fairfield sets aside $200K for COVID relief for residents

Old Town Hall in Fairfield, Conn.

Old Town Hall in Fairfield, Conn.

File photo / File photo

FAIRFIELD — Town officials are setting aside $200,000 of federal money to help residents recovering from the financial impacts of the pandemic through the COVID Recovery Fund.

The money is part of the larger $24.8 million the town has received under the American Rescue Plan, which drew questions from residents and prompted a clarification at a recent Board of Selectmen meeting.

“People thought that the ARPA funds were supposed to be primarily used for COVID relief and I think there was some misunderstanding as you will about that,” First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick said. “It’s very wide spread the way you can use it and most of the towns are using it in the manner in which we put our list together.”

Kupchick said the proposed list of items has “received a lot of positive feedback.”

Among the items is the creation of this fund to help residents.

The town previously set up a COVID-19 Relief Fund to provide limited help to residents significantly impacted by the pandemic. Now, the town has shifted focus to helping the community recover by establishing the COVID-19 Recovery Fund.

The recovery fund provides financial assistance to residents in Fairfield who are unable to meet their basic household needs, such as mortgage, auto expenses, utilities and food due to the economic disruption caused by COVID-19. The town will put $200,000 into the fund.

“When we started talking about what kind of things that we could do with this funding that would help people recover from COVID and to address some of the needs that may be arising, we came up with not extending the fund of donations that was the COVID Relief Fund, but to go into a COVID recovery mode,” said Julie DeMarco, director of human services.

“It’s not that this was a arbitrary number, but we really don’t know what the need is yet,” she added. “To be able to set aside $200,000 to help the town of Fairfield’s residents to recover from those needs, that we can’t even see yet, is wonderful.”

DeMarco believes this is a good amount to work with, even though residents’ needs are longterm.

The COVID Recovery Fund is designed to act as a last resort to help individuals and families similar to the COVID Relief Fund. The relief fund provided approximately 30 to 40 individuals and families with $2,500, a number DeMarco says she would like to increase.

“I think this is a good amount of money and I think the town is very lucky,” DeMarco said. “There is not a lot of communities that are providing this and I also feel like it is a great path to getting these funds approved through a committee rather than the town deeming who’s qualified and who’s not and who is deserving and who is not. It is better to have a committee that works and assess.”

Residents must apply to receive money through the social services department.

Social workers work as a team and assess the applications. Once assessed and approved, the application is sent to the committee for final say.

The committee is made up of five members — a mix of town officials and representatives from nonprofits and churches.

The committee will ask for three months of bank statements, credit card bills, monthly expenses, monthly income that may not be on the bank statement, the size of the household, a demonstration of need and perhaps a verification of employment.

The process also requires applicants to look at other funding sources that may be able to assist.

“We don’t make it horrible,” DeMarco said. “It’s very hard to call to ask for help, but there are a lot of resources out there so we try to exhaust all resources first.”

While there are still some details to iron out about the funding and the process, DeMarco said they already have a list of people who may need help.