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St. Francis House builds outdoor space with CARES Act $, county offers more financial assistance

Published: Dec. 11, 2020 at 6:32 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - As millions of people deal with the financial impacts of the pandemic, the city of Gainesville and Alachua County leaders are working with local organizations to provide assistance to those in need.

St. Francis House in Gainesville recently received $175,000 from the Alachua County CARES Act. They put $10,000 into a new project that now provides outdoor space. Executive Director of the non-profit, Lauri Schiffbauer, said the addition will make a huge impact.

“We are a family shelter. Everybody is tested before they come into the shelter and the folks who are coming from outside may or may not have [gotten a test] ... but we certainly are not going to turn people away because of that ... so we had to get creative. It’s a shed area that is going to turn into a closed closet area and the other part will have heaters. There, we are going to be able to serve folks for daily meals. We are going to ensure six-foot distancing, and we got the masks and all that stuff.”

Alachua Count spokesperson, Mark Sexton, said there was a recent push to expand the CARES Act dollars beyond just families and businesses, to non-profits like St. Francis House.

“The St. Francis House is a beautiful example of an organization that has been critical to the community during the coronavirus ... so the county is very happy that they got these funds.”

This particular project was expedited following the continuation of rising COVID cases and temperatures dropping.

“We can only operate at half capacity right now because of six-foot social distancing. So when people come and we have to say ‘we are full’ [at least we can say] ‘here is a thermal mat ... here is a thermal blanket ... here is a coat ... here is something that is going to keep you warm even though we cannot bring you into the shelter tonight’.”

The organization has also used the CARES Act dollars to upgrade their education and career center.

You can no longer apply for Alachua County CARES Act dollars since the funds have already been allocated, but the city of Gainesville and Alachua County are offering Coronavirus Relief Fund assistance programs to provide temporary financial assistance for costs like rent, mortgage, electric, and gas.

“The good thing about these latest dollars is if you continued to have [COVID financial] impacts for October, November, and December ... or if you never applied for CARES Act dollars ... you can apply for the CRF. That was an additional $550,000 we got from the federal government.”

The deadline to apply for CRF is Tuesday, December 15. Tune in to WCJB on Monday for updates on how much of the federal funds is left and if you qualify. You can find more information on financial support in Alachua County HERE and Gainesville HERE.

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