In mid May the Ulster County Project Resilience Meal Assistance Program entered Phase II. County Executive Pat Ryan said moving to this new phase will help keep the county on track, especially to continue cooking and delivering such a large number of hot and cold meals on a daily basis to those in need. He said the program was faced with either slowing down how much was spent each day in order to keep the program running or, “we’d run out quicker than we liked because we know the need for food is not going away. At the peak we were spending about $40,000 a day on these prepared meals and at that rate the initial donations of $2.5 million doesn’t take you too, too far.”
“By shifting to Phase II,” Ryan said, “we can keep getting food to folks and make that money last longer. We knew this was going to come to this point sometime.”
Ryan said the shift will be to providing more staples to the recipients.
“We’re working with community food banks in different towns,” he said. “It will be a slightly different configuration everywhere, but it will draw on the different systems and rely on that existing network and [the program] will give some additional money to them to make sure they can serve everyone that needs it.”
The program will allow those in need access to Ulster County Community Resources, the Office of the Aging and Project Manna, which is a non-profit organization that helps with grocery shopping and delivery for seniors and others at risk. Financial assistance will also be provided to help with unemployment, utility and medical issues for the public.
Ryan said Project Resilience was initially designed to serve as a bridge, “to meet that very urgent, immediate need and the goal here is how do we make this as sustainable and as long running as possible.” He pointed out that eligible seniors will still qualify for the food delivery service that the county normally provides and if an individual meets an economic need, they can qualify for food stamp benefits. We will also supplement that by linking them up with different food banks and food delivery organizations in their municipalities so that between all those different resources, we’ll make sure that people aren’t hungry. We’ll track them and work with them through that process.”
Ryan said generally the county and each of the towns will continue working with the individuals that are already on their lists, “to make sure that they get a seamless a transfer as possible over to Phase II.” He said these people should not have to fill out any new paperwork as the county will link them up to the right providers from various organizations.
“There may be some small bumps there, but we’re committed to working with everybody to make sure they’re set up and taken care of in the next phase,” he said.
Ryan said the initial reopening of the state will include the construction, manufacturing, curbside retail and agricultural fields.
“It’s definitely a good first step and I think at this point we’re as ready as we possibly can be to do that,” he said, adding that if this goes well many more businesses and office work may follow. The final sector of the economy would include concert and large entertainment venues as well as schools.
As far as the coronavirus, Ryan said all of the trend lines are “headed in the right direction.” He said the number of confirmed cases in the county since this started is 1,645 but an important milestone was reached recently; of those cases only 574 were classified as active and exactly 1,000 have recovered and are no longer positive.
“We have almost double the number of recovered as we do active,” he said, but, “unfortunately we’ve had 71 fatalities across the county and I would say, unfortunately, half have been in senior facilities, including some at Wingate [Highland]. That is concerning and that is where we are focusing a lot of our energy; making sure our county health team is testing every resident and staff member in every one of our senior facilities to make sure we’re being proactive in protecting what we know is a very vulnerable group of folks.”
Ryan said there are several locations for the public to test for covid-19.
Tech City in Kingston 300 Enterprise Dr. Open Monday-Friday 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. and Saturdays 8:30am to 11:30am. Doctors order required. Call 833-308-0712 for more information.
Ellenville Regional Hospital at 10 Healthy Way, Ellenville. Open Monday – Friday 9am – 2pm. Doctors order required. For information call 845-647-6400 ext. 269
Kingston Midtown Mobile Testing site at Grand St., Kingston. Open Monday-Friday 9am to noon. No Doctors order required. Call 845-303-2730.
Rite Aid at 351 Flatbush Ave. in Kingston is also testing for covid-19. Call 845-340-0664 for details and an appointment.
Ryan said testing is free to the public and health insurance is not required. In addition, “We’ve been working really hard with leaders in all of our different communities of color and other communities that are often have trouble getting access; that is not a barrier at all. There should be no worry about any ICE Officers, no way, we’ve been very clear about that. It’s a no threat show up, get tested. We want people to be healthy and safe.”
Ryan is very cognizant of all that has been asked of the public in the last three months, but he urged continued vigilance.
“As we begin to reopen it’s more important than ever that when you are out and about, wear masks, maintain social distancing and wash your hands because the last thing we want is to start opening up and everybody let’s down their guard and all of a sudden we’re back where we were; that would just be devastating.”