ELLSWORTH — Preliminary grant awards announced on Tuesday show the city has been awarded $41,580 from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services as part of a second round of funding for the “Keep Maine Healthy 2020 Municipal COVID-19 Awareness Campaign” that will help fund activities to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The grant is less than the $59,400 staff had requested. Most municipalities got less in the second round than the first, with Bar Harbor receiving $33,083, Deer Isle $6,545 and Castine $6,770.
Officials in Ellsworth had planned on putting the money toward public education (such as signs and advertising), personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer and a part-time contractor who will act as an outreach coordinator for local businesses.
The city had planned to contract with Healthy Acadia for the outreach coordinator position, a person who would “provide proactive education to our businesses on compliance with best public health practices and DECD (Department of Economic and Community Development) checklist guidance and to understand any additional needs and necessary resources the city may be able to provide these businesses,” staff wrote in the grant application, which was submitted on July 31.
“We’re not going to be the mask police, but we will get out and talk and see what we can do to educate the parties involved, all in good spirit,” said City Manager David Cole at a virtual meeting hosted by Heart of Ellsworth on July 24.
There’s little support at the council level for city staff to step into an enforcement role, said City Council Chairman Dale Hamilton. But a go-between such as Healthy Acadia “would be much cleaner and more appropriate.”
“There’s not a lot of support within the council to have the city going into businesses and performing in that way,” said Hamilton, noting that the Code Enforcement Office hasn’t gotten “an overwhelming number of businesses coming forward with either complaints or expressing needs.”
“Every business sector has its own set of rules and you’re never going to be able to have a person who’s going to be able to go into every business and say ‘This is what you need to be doing different,’” said Hamilton. “It sets up a bad dynamic.”
Paul Markosian, co-owner with his wife of Flexit, said some business owners would like to see the city and community help to amplify health messages on masking and physical distancing.
“If we had a little bit more of a lift from the city on this, getting the message out, it would be helpful.”
Ellsworth was awarded a $25,372 grant in the first round of funding earlier this summer. A list of preliminary grant recipients for that round of funding shows $8.3 million slated for distribution in the first round and another $4 million in the second.
Portland received the most by far in the first round, at $1.88 million; Ellsworth’s total was similar to that of Mount Desert ($28,723), Deer Isle ($24,311) and Vinalhaven ($22,625). But even small towns got big bucks: Bar Harbor was set to receive $127,000, while Southwest Harbor got $79,115, Searsport $33,678 and Islesboro $58,250.