Marshall County Public Health Nurse Sandy Dunfee appeared before the County Commissioners on Monday to discuss the Crisis Co Ag Supplemental Workforce in School Grant. This is the $110,000 grant the Health Department was given permission to apply for earlier this month by the commissioners but last week the County Council couldn’t get a motion in favor of the grant due to “strings” being attached.
Dunfee said the Co Ag grant the Health Department asked to apply for last week, wasn’t approved, “maybe because of some confusion. I’m here today to answer any questions you may have and make sure you are understanding what the grant involves and what the role of the Health Department is in this grant.”
The grant was presented to County Health Departments in September as a way for counties to work with the 7 school districts in Marshall County. The grant provides a person to work with the school nurses to provide COVID-19 testing, which the county has been doing since almost the beginning of COVID. Dunfee said, “It was nothing that was mandated to us by the state. It was something Dr. Holm felt was important to keep the schools open.” She said early on it was difficult to get a test in a timely manner and we test students, staff, bus drivers and the administrators, anyone that is exhibiting a covid symptom. This allows the Health Department to find out quickly if they need to quarantine a whole class and helps to keep kids in our county in school.
The grant also helps immunization clinics twice a year. This includes all childhood immunizations along with COVID. They are not given without parental permission.
County Commissioner Kevin Overmyer said in 2020 the council and commissioners were more than willing to give the health department any additional funding needed to provide services. He said, “Now all of a sudden there’s strings attached to this grant. County Attorney Clevenger reviewed the grant and found no strings attached to it.” Overmyer went on to say, ‘Maybe we should give our APR (American Rescue Plan) money back to the federal government because there’s strings attached to that. Every time we do a federal aid project there are strings attached to it. We do a federal bridge there’s strings attached to it.” The commissioner said, “No if you don’t want this money then we’ll just have to raise taxes here to pay for this stuff.”
Commissioner Overmyer said each year the County Council reviews their liaison list for the various departments. He asked Dunfee, “Do you have a liaison from the County Council?” Dunfee said, “I was made aware of this recently. I did not know we had a liaison because I have never met Mr. Harman.”
Overmyer questioned, “Councilman Harman was appointed liaison in early 2021 and has not contacted you or the health department about this grant?” Dunfee affirmed the statement saying he hasn’t had contact with them.
Commissioner Overmyer then said during the Council meeting that Councilman Bohannon said Elkhart County turned down this $3 million grant and Overmyer said it wasn’t the same grant.
Dunfee said the Co Ag grant was approved by Elkhart County, Starke, St. Joseph, Kosciusko and Fulton counties have all accepted this grant. Dunfee also said beginning in March the county health departments will be given back the duties of contact tracing which the state took over for a while.
Overmyer said, “I asked Sandy to come in to clarify some of this stuff because I just felt it was a slap into the Health Department’s face from the County Council to not support you folks. There are no strings attached to this money.” He encouraged Dunfee to appear before the County Council in January to clarify the grant and seek approval again.
The Co Ag grant will allow the county to hire 2 contractual employees to assist them during the COVID-19 pandemic.