GALION — The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has certainly taken a toll on communities large and small, and the reaction of local and state governments has varied.
Mayor Tom O’Leary said the City of Galion made every effort to get ahead of the problems local officials could foresee at the inception of the pandemic. All told, O’Leary said over the course of the year, the city had access to more than $600,000 which it used to assist Galion residents, businesses, and other organizations. He said the funding was released “in two small allocations and then a big gush — about half of what we got — came in October.”
“I think city government was responsive early on to the COVID crisis,” O’Leary said. “We were putting money out to assist businesses and assisting the Galion City Health Department early on with money for contact tracing. So before there was a CARES Act, the City of Galion was doing their best to provide funds in key areas. Once the CARES Act dollars finally were distributed at the local level, we emphasized, to the extent possible, aid to individual families, individuals that were impacted by the pandemic.
“The largest portion of our CARES Act dollars are going first to the utility refund and then we’re going to distribute money to the daycare centers who have provided services to the eligible essential workers,” he added. “Working with Second Harvest food bank, we are going to fund some of the food drives that they’ve sponsored here in Galion. That will enable Second Harvest to provide drive-through food drives in the Galion area in 2021.”
The city offered a one-time utility credit of $100 per customer account in November. That was paid for through CARES Act funding, O’Leary said.
O’Leary lamented the fact that he was an eye witness to the great need that Galion residents have experienced over the course of the year since the pandemic struck Crawford County.
“It seemed like nearly every Saturday, St. Paul (United Methodist Church), which is right down the street from where I live, as I was walking from my home over to the bike path and back, I would just see dozens of cars lined up to get food,” O’Leary explained. “I was just overwhelmed. It was just an unsettling feeling about how many people were in need of food assistance. It wasn’t just the needy people, it was middle class people, folks who are just making it, but they’re suffering.
“I think it was close to 450 or so, close to 500 folks that showed up at the Second Harvest food distribution. So we’re going to try to keep that going in 2021 and work out an arrangement with Second Harvest.”
O’Leary praised the Galion-Crestline Area and Bucyrus Area chambers of commerce for the $800,000 in funds they’ve distributed to local businesses through the Small Business Relief Grant Program. He hopes the city can support more efforts like that in the coming months.
“Their grant program, where they got CARES Act money from the county commissioners, that has been very well received and it turns out they could use some more money,” he said. “So we’ll be working on that in hopes that we can spend the money on all those areas that I outlined. Getting the CARES Act money out in ways that benefited the maximum number of Galionites was our goal. We sure tried hard and I think we were able to help a lot of folks.”
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