County Commissioner Dianne Edmondson
You hear that phrase again and again, “We are all in this together.” Not to sound trite, but we really are all affected by this COVID-19 pandemic. Your County Commissioners have taken a close look at our county and it soon became apparent that we, your elected county officials, had to do everything we could to assist our fellow Denton County residents. There are so many segments in our diverse county—individuals, children, seniors, churches, businesses, those who had lost jobs, and those who hoped to continue providing jobs. Indeed, all of these segments are in this together!
County Employees and Buildings
After thorough research, the court adopted several policies dealing with our own 1,750 employees designed to keep them and their families as safe as possible while still providing essential services to the public. Following the directives of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Governor’s executive order, our employees were classified as either essential or non-essential. Virtually all of our county buildings were shut down and services were offered to the public online. Working from home became the new normal for most of our administrative personnel, and I can attest firsthand that we still worked long hours to handle county business and field constituents’ questions. Most county buildings will be re-opened early in June. Check our website, dentoncounty.gov, for specifics.
Since most childcare facilities and schools were closed, the federal guidelines required us to allow paid time off for employees with children at home to care for as well as employees who were sick or who had to quarantine or care for relatives who were quarantined. Most of those expenses already were budgeted; however, the addition of nearly $2 million in materials, supplies, and equipment related to COVID-19 was necessary. As you probably know, the federal government has sent millions of dollars to states, counties, and large municipalities to help with these kinds of expenses.
Social Services Agencies
In Denton County, we received $147 million and are establishing several programs to help our county residents. As you can imagine, local non-profits which provide shelter, food, clothing, and other necessities to individuals and families here in Denton County have been swamped with requests as incomes are lost but expenses continue. Your commissioners turned to a trusted partner, the United Way of Denton County, to assist us in helping residents. To date, we have infused more than $1 million to assist households across the county. Approximately 30 non-profits will benefit from these CARES funds (Denton County Coalition of Agencies to Restore Essential Services) and literally thousands of individuals will receive emergency help with food, rental assistance, healthcare, and mental health during this pandemic.
Most of these emergency needs are due to the great number of jobs that have been lost to our county wage earners. Each of us likely knows someone whose company was shut down, made layoffs, or was forced to change its business model due to the governor’s stay at home order as we worked together to try and stop the spread of the virus. Bottom line—if businesses reopen and provide jobs, life becomes easier for many of our fellow residents. To that end, your commissioners created a grant program for local businesses who were affected by these government policies. Called OPEN (Denton County Operational Plan for Economic Normalization), this program was initially funded with $2.2 million in capital credits from the county’s electricity provider, CoServ, which had been saved over the last 20 years, proving very timely as the initial funds to help local businesses recover as quickly as possible. During the first weeklong application window in May, 1,337 online applications were received and 868 others started online but not completed. The awarded funds will be sent to businesses early in June. Some $20 million additional dollars will be made available in future business grants. Full details can be found at dentoncounty.gov/open.
Help for Cities
Denton County’s $147 million also is meant to be shared with communities having populations under 500,000 in our county. These cities, towns, and other municipalities have been notified and will be allotted funds at the rate of $55 per capita of population. The county has offered several options for distributing these funds which total about $45 million. It’s important to note that all of the federal CARES funds must be used only to cover expenses incurred due to the coronavirus; full documentation is required of both the county and the municipalities receiving them.
Hopefully, by seeing all these segments of the Denton County CARES program, you can know that we really do care about all those who are in this together. We so appreciate those who have been faithfully following the suggested guidelines for social distancing and gatherings, as well as those businesses who were limited for a time by the governor’s executive orders. Now that Texas is reopening, we still must be very alert to our invisible enemy because the virus hasn’t gone away; it’s lurking nearby every day and we should use our best efforts to avoid it and ask God’s protection in those efforts.
Remember, stay the course. Stay safe, stay strong, and stay committed to helping others in these trying times.
If you would like to receive an e-newsletter, please contact Precinct 4 Commissioner Dianne Edmondson at Dianne.Edmondson@dentoncounty.com and ask to be placed on the email list. You may phone her at 972-434-3960. Her office is located in the Southwest Courthouse, 6200 Canyon Falls Drive, Suite 900, in Flower Mound.