City DopeNews

Commission Adds Funding to Vaccine Incentive Program

Credit: Gustavo Fring

At a separate meeting, the commission unanimously voted last week to extend a Clarke County Health Department program offering $100 gift cards to people who get a COVID-19 vaccine shot, and will seek out other partners to participate, as well.

Initially approved in August, the incentive program started Sept. 3, and less than two weeks later, the health department had distributed 735 gift cards, leaving 265 remaining for first doses and another 1,000 for second doses. Northeast Health District Director Stephen Goggans requested an additional $100,000 in funding Sept. 16, on top of the $250,000 previously approved. That money will fund 500 gift cards for first doses and 500 for second doses.

The original figure included $50,000 for administration—primarily police protection for the gift cards—but just $3,100 has been spent, according to Goggans.

The gift cards are available at the health department office on Harris Street, as well as various community events. So far, vaccination drives have been held downtown, in Rocksprings, in the Pinewoods neighborhood, at Triangle Plaza in East Athens and at other locations.

Commissioners also said they want to expand the program to include other health-care providers that can reach out to underserved communities. ACC Manager Blaine Williams said he will introduce a request for proposals for the commission to vote on at its Oct. 5 meeting, along with a recommended dollar amount. Partners could then be approved as soon as November.

Also at the Sept. 21 meeting, the commission put a proposed eviction prevention program on hold after receiving only one bid from a nonprofit to administer the program. The ACC Housing and Community Development Department recommended against accepting the bid by Athenian First Development Corp. because the group has no experience with eviction prevention or financial assistance and it lacks the staff to implement the program. Its proposal also lacked detail on coordinating with the Magistrate Court, which oversees eviction proceedings, or the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, which distributes federal rent assistance, HCD Director Hayley Banerjee said in a memo to commissioners. In addition, she cited Athenian First Development Corp.’s request for $3.85 million in funding—far more than commissioners wanted to spend initially.

Expecting a spate of evictions after a CDC moratorium expired—the Supreme Court struck it down last month—commissioners had hoped to get the program up and running by Oct. 1. Based on a program called Project RESET in Gwinnett County, it would pay partial back rent to landlords in exchange for allowing tenants to stay in their homes.

Instead, the commission is likely to rebid the program. However, by an 8-1 vote, commissioners decided to hold off until the Oct. 5 meeting, with Commissioner Ovita Thornton dissenting.