The City of Jacksonville has received money from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to help in the fight against COVID-19. The Jacksonville City Council approved the usage of nearly $200,000 from the state’s CURES Act grant program for municipalities to be used for the city’s ongoing COVID-19 response on Monday night.
Morgan County Emergency Management Coordinator Phil McCarty explained to the council Monday night that the money will be used to upgrade IT infrastructure for the city, pay for overtime for emergency management and city employees in response to COVID-19, and to purchase a mobile response trailer in conjunction with the county to increase testing. McCarty says the IT upgrades will allow all the city’s departments to work remotely and it will help upgrade the city council chambers for livestreaming of city council meetings in the future.
McCarty says these are vital pieces so the city can have more testing and more access to remote work: “[This money] is 100% focused in response to COVID. All of this money that the city spent already to date and we are going to continue to spend until December 30th is eligible for our CURES reimbursement. Some of the stuff that was purchased is a testing trailer. It’s one of the larger items. It’s so we can take testing in that and when vaccines come available, it will allow us to have the technology in the field with us, have a place to work, have our equipment there, as well as being able to move it around town versus setting up shop in tents. This will help us utilize our resources and be more efficient and get out to where the need is when we have one.”
The City Council heard some criticism last night from 2 local business owners and a concerned citizen about the lack of mask enforcement at businesses and a lack of testing options for citizens. McCarty says that local health officials want to get testing done right and efficiently: “[Testing] is on our agenda every day to make sure that the citizens of Jacksonville have better access, I hope sooner rather than later. It’s out of my control. Everyone is going to want a vaccine at a certain point, too. Everyone is going to want to get the flu vaccine. Access has been really important to us. We are testing 60 people a week in town, and it is not as convenient as we want it to be. There are some things that we are putting in place to make it better. This money will help that. The county gets money and so doesn’t the health department. It’s not just money, it’s people and logistics and doing it right. The most important thing to us is to do it right. We don’t want to say, ‘We did it a little bit here.’ What I don’t want to happen in our community is someone to say, ‘Well I stood in line for 2 1/2 hours and I pulled out line and got a call the next day saying I was positive.’ We have to be accurate and timely for everyone.”
McCarty says that the CURES money for IT Technology for departments in the city will continue vital services in the city: “We as being part of the government never shut down. We are always here. There is always the fire department, the police, there is dispatchers, the water treatment plant, wastewater treatment, the clerk’s office, inspections – we are always here. We need to always be here. Now that we have something new attacking us, we may have to be here from home. This allows us to continue to serve the citizens of Jacksonville a little more efficiently from home. It’s not perfect but we are going to continue to work towards that.”
McCarty says that the money will help meet the city’s current challenges while forging ahead in an ever-changing situation. He says that he hasn’t had any problems working with DCEO getting the funding and they have been a pleasure to work with. He says that the money from the state has been slow, but it’s been coming. McCarty says that FEMA has also provided about $100,00 for COVID response on top of the CURES funding. The City of Jacksonville has been allocated a little over $800,000 to spend for their response to the crisis until December 30th.