Clarkston City Council considers funding request for COVID-19 testing, vaccinations

The DeKalb County Board of Health received 2,500 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and began vaccination of Board of Health frontline workers on Dec. 31, 2020 to be followed by long-term care facility residents and staff, and EMS personnel. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Clarkston, GA – The Clarkston City Council, at its Feb. 2 regular meeting, approved a proclamation for Black History Month, gave the housing committee direction to make policy regarding affordable housing solutions, and decided not to move forward with a request for COVID-19 funding.

Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE) requested funding from the city and DeKalb County Board of Health to perform COVID-19 testing and possibly administer the vaccines.

The city previously provided $80,000 in CARES Act money to CORE for testing in November and December 2020. Those funds expired on Dec. 15 and the city decided not to provide more money at this time.

CORE committed to funding the month of January with a demobilization date of Feb. 1 in the absence of further funding, Jonathan Golden, Georgia area manager for CORE, wrote in the request.

“The cost of a fully integrated mobile testing unit will be $40,000 per month,” Golden said.

The request also states CORE could shift to a vaccine unit and partner with Ethne Health and Clarkston Community Health Center for volunteer clinicians. That would cost $62,000 per month but without volunteers it would be $84,000 per month.

Councilman Awet Eyasu appreciates the services but feels the city doesn’t have the resources to support the effort at this time.

“But at this point I really am afraid we cannot afford to support them even though I sincerely believe that the services they’re providing is critical and it’s very important,” he said.

Councilman Jamie Carroll agreed that $40,000 a month is too much and was willing to provide a portion of the money if CORE had other funding sources.

This is not an item the city has budgeted currently, Mayor Beverly Burks said.

“That’s the unfortunate thing right now because we have so many people who need to continue to get tested but again we have to be fiscally responsible too,” Burks said.

Councilwoman Laura Hopkins noted there was a COVID-19 vaccination drive at Clarkston First Baptist Church and wondered why CORE cancelled at the last minute as they were set to cosponsor the event with Ethne Health.

“We have not heard anything from CORE as I stated,” City Manager Robin Gomez said. “Yesterday morning [Feb. 1] when I arrived on the site I was informed by Ethne Health that CORE did not have funding to participate in the vaccinations that occurred yesterday, earlier today [Feb. 2] and will occur tomorrow [Feb. 3] for the third day.”

Burks also introduced a proclamation for Black History Month to make sure the city recognizes the occasion throughout February, she said.

“We just want to make sure that we recognize the history of our African American community, and especially with a lot of firsts, and actually having our first African American as well as Asian descent vice president of the United States,” Burks said.

The proclamation details the history and evolution of Black History Month as it started out as Black History Week in 1926, and was often the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln.

That week was expanded to Black History Month in 1976, according to the proclamation.

“Black History Month seeks to emphasize Black history and its cultural contributions to American life, and is designed to recognize and pay tribute to the many contributions of African Americans to the history, society and culture of the United States of America,” the proclamation says.

Eyasu noted that if it wasn’t for the struggles and experiences of African Americans he wouldn’t be here, let alone serving on the city council, nor would the city probably have its first African American mayor.

“I think in a way, I think it’s not just February. I’m pretty sure the entire 12 months are representative of everybody’s history, but it’s good that we always remember the contributions of, especially marginalized communities such as African Americans in American history,” Eyasu said.

The city council additionally approved a resolution that will allow the housing committee to make policy recommendations for affordable housing solutions and develop procedures of the housing trust fund.

Several years ago, the city hired a firm to conduct an affordable housing study, Eysau said, adding that would be a good place to start.

“It’s taking a lot of work that has been in place and making sure that it is compliant with what we want to do for our city and so it also kind of works in tandem with what we’re seeing with the rewrite as well as the comprehensive plan,” Burks said.

She said at the Jan. 26 work session that the housing committee will take the time to look at those existing documents to see if the city can still utilize those recommendations and follow up in terms of engaging residents.

This action will also make sure there are procedures in place for how to use the housing trust fund and will include an opportunity for the housing committee to host an affordable housing summit to receive input from stakeholders.

The City Council’s next meeting is on Tuesday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m. through Zoom. This meeting will be a work session.

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