City of Sumter giving 6K COVID-19 care kits to households

CARES Act funding used for masks, hand sanitizer


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After mailing about 6,000 postcards to several low- to moderate-income households in the City of Sumter, several families received hand sanitizer and reusable face masks.

As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, the City of Sumter provided eligible residents of city Wards 1-4 with free COVID-19 Self Care Kits throughout September.

"We had some CARES Act funding, and we got some money in that we could decide what would be some best usage," said Support Services Director Lefford Fate. "One of the things we knew was that low- to moderate-income areas, especially early on, weren't able to afford some of the things that were hard to get."

In July, Sumter City Council approved to amend the Community Development Block Grant Entitlement Budget to include the CARES Act fund, which was $183,595. It was meant for communities to provide measures aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19 and to mitigate economic impact in the U.S.

About 20% of the funding was directed to the city's administration to create a COVID-19 education program, while the rest was put into health services to distribute 6,000 quarts of hand sanitizer and 15,000 masks to households throughout low- and moderate-income areas within the City of Sumter.

For many, it was difficult to find hand sanitizers and masks almost anywhere in the country, so the City of Sumter felt it was best to provide these essential items to those that need it most.

"What we were looking for was the people with the greatest need when it comes to their income level," Fate said. "That's who we were targeting."

Each kit had three reusable face masks and one bottle of hand sanitizer. If a household received a postcard, it was able to receive one kit.

Fate said they chose to provide kits to low- to moderate-income households rather than individuals because a majority of the households in the city Ward 1-4 areas were below the poverty line, and they provided three face masks in the kits because it was the average number of residents in a household.

Community Development Director Clarence Gaines said low-to-moderate income is below 50% of the median income of those in Sumter.

According to Gaines, 56%-70% of households in Sumter fall under low to moderate income. Fate said a majority of that percentage lives below the poverty line in city Wards 1-4.

"We know that people in those areas were at a higher percentage of dying from COVID-19 or were severely impacted by it, especially earlier on when we made the decision to go this route," Fate said. "The importance was that we took COVID very seriously. The leaders in the community wanted to make sure that the most vulnerable population of people had something that would help them."

So far, the City of Sumter has distributed 3,600 kits out of the 6,000 made, Fate said. They will continue distributing the rest of the kits to those eligible until supplies run out.

"If you live in these areas and you got a card, we're still open for business," Fate said. "We're continuing on, so if you still have a card and still haven't picked up your kit, it's not too late."

From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday to Friday, Fate said they will be at the North HOPE Center, 904 N. Main St.; South HOPE Center, 1125 S. Lafayette Blvd.; and Birnie HOPE Center, 210 S. Purdy St., until supplies run out.

Fate said if someone didn't receive a postcard but is a resident of one of the low- to moderate-income areas, he or she can present identification to prove residency and eligibility to pick up a kit.