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Berkshire County Kids Place is one of several nonprofit service agencies that have received CDBG funds through the city.

Pittsfield Human Service Programs Receive CDBG Funds

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- The city has allocated about $138,000 of additional Community Development Block Grant funds into local human service programs. The Office of Community Development's Program Manager Justine Dodds said there is additional funding available for qualifying organizations.

At the Jan. 12, City Council meeting, Pittsfield received its second allocation of Community Development Block Grants in the amount of $475,103.00. The federally funded program is designed to help small cities and towns meet a broad range of community development needs.

In total, the city has received $1,264,444. The first allocation was accepted by the City Council on April 28, 2020. These two allocations are separate and in addition to the city's annual entitlement allocation.

As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding, the grant has the same guidelines as the CDBG but also has to be used for preparing for responding to or preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The Elizabeth Freeman Center will be funded an additional $25,000 for employee hazard pay, personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, and additional hotline staffing.

"They have experienced, unfortunately, a higher volume of calls because of the pandemic," Dodds said.

Berkshire County Kids place applied for an allocation and have been funded $24,120 for modifications to space. The facility requires touch-less technology to prevent the spread of COVID-19, bathroom modifications, and plexiglass separations among other changes to conduct business in a safe space.

United Cerebral Palsy applied for a $25,000 allocation and received it. UCP is switching a lot of counseling programming advocacy work to a telehealth model and is doing virtual training with clients on how to access needed services. It provides the laptops and means for technology, but the grant is paying for staff to assist clients in accessing services remotely.

Berkshire Nursing Families received a $10,000 allocation. It is getting a higher volume of referrals from pediatricians and doctors' offices because patients are not coming in as frequently, making it a service that needs support. BNF is also conducting Zoom groups and a number of virtual services that need to be beefed up, which requires funding.

"They have adapted pretty well to doing these curbside consultations, and so they're doing a great deal with that," Dodds said. "I just recently monitored their programs recently and was rather impressed with how they have coped with it."

The remaining two allocations are $22,000 for a consulting space $32,000 for a daytime warming shelter at the Christian Center.

During the pandemic, the Christian Center has partnered with the city and most of the agencies that are handling the homeless and at risk of being homeless population. Over the summer, they put together a group with different service agencies such as Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority and ServiceNet to provide counseling services to housing insecure individuals with the intent of securing housing and accessing needs.

This group met twice a week in an outside tent on the Christian Center's property, as food services were being conducted inside and the two could not be blended. Because of the winter conditions, this service needs to be moved inside and the $22,000 grant will go toward reworking a space on the property into a safe space for service agencies to meet with clients.

The Christian Center's $32,000 grant will be used to purchase a temporary trailer as a daytime warming shelter for the hours that ServiceNet's shelter is closed during the daytime.  This has been a long-anticipated facility, as temperatures are reaching dangerous lows, and many places that individuals seek warmth in such as the Berkshire Athenaeum are currently closed to the public.

"We looked around at a number of options and ways to do this but it seems like this is the thing that's going to make the most sense,"  Dodds said.

Tags: CDBG,   

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Berkshires Gets Limited Vaccine Doses; Named 'High-Efficiency Collaborative'

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — COVID-19 vaccine shipments expected early last week were delayed because of inclement weather and were smaller than expected, leaving Berkshire County shorthanded. And a "very limited" amount of vaccines was available for appointment first-dose slots on Wednesday.  
"This week, Massachusetts received 139,000 doses," Mayor Linda Tyer said to the City Council on Tuesday. "That's it, we have a million potential new residents who are eligible, but for the week we received 139,000 doses."
Public Health Program Manager Laura Kittross said there is limited access everywhere and doesn't expect this to be an ongoing issue.  She hopes to see additional vaccine allocations later this week and is "certainly hopeful for next week."
On Thursday, there were very limited first-dose clinic at Berkshire Community College from 2 to 5 with 300 appointments available to eligible individuals. The North Adams and Great Barrington vaccination sites will also hold first-dose clinics on Thursday, offering 250 doses each. All of those were gone by late afternoon on Wednesday.
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