December 9, 2020

County Executive Elrich Pushes for COVID-19 Outreach to African American and Latino Communities and Food Security

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich’s request for a special appropriation of $20.7 million to extend support to communities in the County that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 has been approved by the County Council.

The special appropriations will provide additional funding for food insecurity, as well as the outreach efforts for the Latino Health Initiative’s (LHI) Por Nuestra Salud y Bienestar program and the African American Health Program’s (AAHP) Targeted COVID Response program. These programs have been providing COVID-19 testing and other services to underserved communities. Current funding for these efforts was set to end on Dec. 30.

The County Executive’s request was made as the deadline for Federal funding nears. Earlier during the pandemic, the County implemented a number of programs to help residents endure hardships that resulted from COVID-19. The additional funding will enable the County to continue the programs and assist residents.

“As the cases mount in our County and around the State, I am recommending these special appropriations to address food insecurity, as well as the disproportionate impact COVID is having on two of the County’s racial and ethnic populations—the Latino and African American communities,” said County Executive Elrich. “These efforts have largely been funded using Federal Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars, and now I am requesting that the County use its reserves to continue these vital programs. The County will pursue FEMA reimbursement for all costs that are eligible for reimbursement and we are confident that most of our expenses will be reimbursed.”

County Executive Elrich recommended a special appropriation to the COVID-19 Human Services and Community Assistance Non-Departmental Account for $12,803,250. This will continue to fund the County’s efforts to address the significant food insecurity issues impacting residents and enable the County’s Food Security Task Force to provide services through the end of the fiscal year (June 30). Residents will continue to be connected to food assistance in the short-term and the funding will allow investments in systems, programs and partnerships that will extend beyond the crisis.

The Task Force has developed the “COVID-19 Pandemic Food Security Strategic Plan” that identifies actionable strategies to address:
  • Critical needs to increase the volume of food in the food assistance system.
  • Improve the food delivery system.
  • Communicate to and connect residents with resources.
  • Foster a permanently resilient and equitable food system in Montgomery County.
To date, the program has been paid for with general fund dollars. The County’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security is confident that FEMA will accept most of the costs associated with this program and will reimburse the County for the expenditures.

County Executive Elrich also has recommended $4,620,997 to extend funding for LHI’s Por Nuestra Salud y Bienestar program. In partnership with seven preeminent Latino-serving community-based organizations, the program provides a targeted emergency response related to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Latinos. Data shows that Latinos have higher COVID positivity rates compared with those of non-Hispanics. The program provides a culturally and linguistically competent health and wellness system that addresses critical needs for outreach, education, testing, clinical follow-up and case management.

Like the Por Nuestra Salud y Bienestar Program, the AAHP Executive Committee will receive an additional $3,341,444 to fund a COVID-19 Response Strategy. The strategy provides a targeted emergency response related to African American and Black residents who have significant disparities in death rates for COVID-19. The additional funding will allow the continuation of implementation strategies that address critical needs for community outreach, communications, education, mental health supports and services, support of a Black Physician Partnership as well as food insecurity.