BENTON HARBOR — Benton Harbor is being allocated $250,905 from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which was signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27.
Mayor Marcus Muhammad announced Thursday that the city is receiving the money to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act made available $5 billion in Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus (CDBG-CV) funds.
“The city manager and I are in talks to ... hopefully purchase (face) masks for every resident,” he said.
Muhammad said the masks are needed because the governor’s stay-at-home order has been extended to last through April. 30.
“And there’s a possibility that that could be extended,” he said. “One thing we wanted to do was provide some form of safety for all staff and hopefully, we can purchase enough where all residents will have masks as they go out to get essential goods.”
After the meeting, Muhammad said the city’s Community and Economic Development Department will collaborate with the Berrien County Health Department and Spectrum Health Lakeland to look at other ways the money could be spent to protect residents from COVID-19.
Many people across the country have been ordered to stay home as governors try to slow the spread of COVID-19, so hospitals aren’t overwhelmed.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recently recommended that everyone, even if they are not sick, wear face masks when they are out in public, especially at grocery stores and pharmacies where it can be difficult to maintain social distance. The recommendations were upgraded because recent studies have shown that people with COVID-19 are contagious several days before they get sick, and a significant number of people who get COVID-19 never develop any symptoms but can still spread the virus.
The CDC recommends that residents use “simple cloth face coverings.”
“Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure,” the website states. “The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.”
Local health officials believe a surge of COVID-19 cases could still hit Southwest Michigan in the coming days.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which manages the CDBG money, encourages cities to develop plans for the money that “prioritize the unique needs of low- and moderate-income persons and the development of partnerships between all levels of government and the private for-profit and nonprofit sectors.”