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Village of Yellow Springs shares $40K in federal CARES funds

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The Village of Yellow Springs gave $40,000 to 17 local businesses and nonprofits this month for COVID-19-related health and safety improvements.

New HVAC filtration systems, masks, gloves, stand-alone air purifiers, plexiglass partitions and hand sanitizer stations were among the products purchased by local organizations through the grant.

But demand for the funds was even greater, as a total of $70,587.72 was requested during the single funding round, announced in late November and with two days of notice before the deadline.

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Funding for the aid program came through the federal CARES Act. This year the Village applied for, and received, a total of $341,883.16 in COVID-19 relief funds in four different distributions.

That amount is still less than the Village estimated that it would lose in revenue this year, about $400,000, largely from lower income tax receipts.

According to the grant application, the funding was aimed at small local organizations that were “interrupted through required closures, voluntary closures to promote social distancing, or that were impacted by decreased customer demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Village focused its relief on addressing “environmental conditions,” not covering other losses local businesses and nonprofits incurred.

Village Manager Josué Salmerón said the funds were for projects with “high impact,” and focused on HVAC systems because of how the highly contagious coronavirus is transmitted through the air.

“HVAC systems can potentially spread a virus across rooms when high-speed air flows past an infected person to others,” Salmerón wrote in an email this week. Upgrades could reduce the spread of COVID-19, however, by increasing the rate of fresh air exchange and killing the virus via filtration, ionization and UV light systems.

“Improving environmental conditions and air quality is critical to providing a safer place of business for customers and employees [and] doing so also helps business recover from the COVID-19 financial impact,” Salmerón wrote.

Grant relief was capped at $5,000 per organization, with the Antioch School, the Glen Helen Association and the Yellow Springs Children’s Center each receiving the maximum amount.

Some local organizations shared with the News this week how they plan to spend the money.

The Glen is putting its funds to use as part of a series of improvements to its facilities in order to restart environmental learning programs at the Outdoor Education Center, according to Glen Director Nick Boutis. Those programs were halted completely in March, and represent a significant revenue stream for the nonprofit, which purchased the Glen from Antioch College in September.

The $5,000 the Glen received went toward the purchase and installation of ion- and UV-filtration systems for dormitories, along with hand sanitizer stations.

HVAC system improvements were also how the Community Children’s Center spent its $5,000. The additional filtration units are designed specifically to kill viruses and bacteria in classrooms and hallways, Children’s Center Director Malissa Doster wrote in an email this week.

“In addition to preventing mold and bacteria in the HVAC system, it also kills bacteria and viruses in the classrooms and hallways, reduces odors, allergens and dust particles, and reduces airborne pathogens that can cause cross-contamination,” she wrote.

Doster also reported that the local daycare center and preschool has had no active cases of COVID-19 among its staff and children since reopening in June.

Local affordable housing nonprofit Home, Inc. used its $3,705 in funding for air purifiers in both its offices and the homes of several tenants, specifically those who are elderly or have special needs, according to Home, Inc. Director Emily Seibel this week. The funds were used to purchase protective personal equipment, or PPE, for both employees and tenants in need.

The Yellow Springs Senior Center used $2,608 in funds to install air purifiers in the center’s central heating and cooling system, along with stand-alone air purifiers in areas where air is not circulated, according to director Karen Wolford. The Senior Center has yet to reopen to the public since the March closure, although many of its programs have continued.

At Sunrise Cafe, owner Brian Rainey is still looking into upgrading the HVAC filtration system. In the meantime, he’s using the $1,103 in Village funds he received to stock up on gloves and masks for the winter, he wrote in an email this week.

“Glove prices have tripled so it’s a big expense,” Rainey wrote.

Marcia Wallgren, owner of Ohio Silver, has also found it difficult to find some needed supplies at a reasonable price. Paper towels, disinfectant wipes, masks and gloves were all difficult to find throughout the year and prices were often inflated.

“For example, a gallon of sanitizer which would have cost $12 prior to March was offered at $62.50 in April,” Wallgren reported. “It is still difficult to find for under $20 to $27 per gallon.”

Wallgren used $2,049 in Village funds for an HVAC upgrade with a UV-C light filter; a plexiglas and aluminum sneeze shield for the register area; face shields, masks and gloves for staff; masks for customers; and a variety of cleaning supplies.

However, the Village grant did not cover costs that the local jewelry shop, which is in its 50th year of business, spent on technology upgrades to bring its products online. That’s an expense that Wallgren hopes to cover through additional funding. Sales in her shop have declined by 55% this year, she reported.

Also receiving funds were the Little Art Theater ($4,697), Winds Cafe ($3,950), Emporium ($1,652.50), Yellow Springs News ($1,111.87), Greene Canteen ($1,000), Veterinary Alternatives ($800), 360 Training LLC ($650), Divas2 LLC ($500), Wildflower Salon ($500) and First Presbyterian Church ($471.54).

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