The Ulster County executive has launched a community fund and local food distribution effort to support residents impacted by COVID-19.
Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan says Tuesday’s launch of Project Resilience is in response to a surge of support and goodwill.
“And I think we’re showing really our state and our whole country what it looks like when a community comes together and works to help those among the community in need,” Ryan says. “So this is a model that I hope others can learn from as well.”
The effort includes a community fund, in partnership with the United Way.
“I’m very excited to announce that in just 24 hours, really less than 24 hours, we’ve already raise and had pledges of over $2 million, $2 million, from generous supporters to help fund those in most need in our county,” says Ryan. “We want to raise $5 million, and the reason that we get to that number, which I know is a high number, rough back-of-the-envelope math basically that’s enough money to just help every family in Ulster County that’s below the affordability threshold get one week of groceries.”
There’s also an online portal for anyone in need to ask for help.
“The third piece is a robust food distribution network across the county,” Ryan says. “We’re going to repurpose our UCAT buses. We’re going to work with municipalities and other not-for-profit partners and make sure in addition to the work the school districts are doing that we’ll supplement and support to get anyone in need food and other critical services.”
He says Ulster County Area Transit, or UCAT buses are still running, though in a reduced capacity. The fourth component is a partnership program for businesses and community groups to provide the food and services.
“For our businesses in the community, many of them, particularly our restaurants and food producers, are struggling,” Ryan says. “If you opt into this program we’ll use the funds raised to pay you at cost so that you can continue to employ your food-service workers to make food and use the inventory you have to feed those in need.
By Tuesday, Ulster County had eight confirmed positive COVID-19 cases, out of more than 80 tests conducted in the county. Ryan says this includes one positive case in the Town of Lloyd Monday and two Tuesday in the Towns of Saugerties and Marbletown. Ulster County Health Commissioner Dr. Carol Smith says the county received 250 testing kits from the state.
“What we are doing is trying to prioritize,” Dr. Smith says. “So if we have someone who had been tested, either through a hospital base or their doctor, that we, if they’re positive, they have direct family members who may becoming symptomatic, these are people that really do need to be tested.”
“That number of total tests completed is unacceptable and we are not satisfied with that. We need to get that number up and that’s what we’re working on doing," Ryan says. “We have the capacity now with additional public health nurses, with the private labs coming online and with the plans in the works for mobile testing to exponentially increase that testing capacity. So we are, that is our number-one priority right now.”
“The state continues to fight and get us resources. We’ve now received over 1,300 N95 masks to supplement our health workers and first responders,” says Ryan. “We received over 600 surgical masks, and we’ve now received 48 cases, which is 192 gallons, of hand sanitizer.”
The county has already distributed some of the hand sanitizer. Ryan says he and county legislature leaders spoke this morning.
“It makes sense to have essentially a spending freeze in county spending for hiring as well as other programs except for, of course, essential coronavirus response,” says Ryan. “So we are in agreement on that, and that will prepare us as best we can for any longer term economic impacts and budgetary impacts.”
Ryan says more than 90 percent of businesses in Ulster County are small businesses.
“We’ll be rolling out in the next day or so an initiative for this Saturday, a small business Saturday type of initiative, where we’ll ask people to either shop online or buy gift certificates to your favorite local businesses to help them with their cash-flow needs,” Ryan says.
Ulster County COVID-19 Hotline: 845-443-8888
NYS Coronavirus Information Hotline: 888-364-3065