Pine Belt charities to get more than $800,000 in CARES funding

Updated: Sep. 29, 2020 at 8:09 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Nonprofits and food pantries in the Pine Belt have been doing a lot of work to help the community during the pandemic. Now, they’re getting some help from Congress with more than $800,000 of CARES Act funding.

Edwards Street Fellowship Center executive director Ann McCullen says the center has been providing about 200 more meals a month since the start of the pandemic, and the center needed to implement safety measures in the clinic and food pantry.

“We did invest in a lot of personal protection equipment," McCullen said. "And because it’s a medical facility, the masks are all M-95 and we added face shields. We have the forehead thermometers for the volunteer at our food pantry as well as anyone who is going to enter the medical building.”

And the cost for those safety measures adds up. That’s why the state legislature is allocating $831,656 of CARES grant funding to the Pine Belt to help offset the COVID-19 related expenses charities are facing. The Pine Belt Foundation is distributing the money and taking applications from charities.

“Any nonprofit that is purchasing equipment, personal protective equipment, that has had to buy equipment so that people could office from a distance, that has been housing people during COVID, has been feeding people during COVID, that has been helping to pay bills during COVID, all of these things are expenses that can be reimbursed,” said Michael Dixon, executive director of the Pine Belt Foundation.

Each nonprofit and each food pantry can be reimbursed up to $4,000 with the grant money, which is first come first serve.

“And if someone is a nonprofit that is working in COVID relief and they’re doing food deliveries and they’re a food pantry, by the definitions of this grant as well they can actually apply to both those buckets,” Dixon said.

So charities like the Edwards Street Fellowship are eligible for up to $8,000 between its clinic and food pantry.

“It is a big relief that as we do our very best to keep our staff and our volunteers and those who depend on our services to keep them safe and healthy,” McCullen said. "We don’t have nearly the nagging thoughts of, ‘Can we afford this, can we afford this?’ Because all along we felt we can’t afford not to be safe, but yeah the ticket adds up.”

The Pine Belt Foundation is taking applications for the grant money through the end of the year and the money is first come first serve.

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