Cobb Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to provide county nonprofits with $1 million to purchase and distribute food for those in need.
The proposal will allow nonprofits to seek reimbursement for such purchases as far back as April 1 and any food going forward.
“I don’t even know how long ($1 million) will last,” south Cobb Commissioner Lisa Cupid said. “But it is something.”
Efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus have resulted in mass unemployment in Cobb County, which has sent the need for food assistance skyrocketing, according to Shari Martin, head of the Cobb Community Foundation.
Martin shared with commissioners in April the results of a survey of Cobb nonprofits that distribute food, which found that they gave food to almost three times as many families in March as they had in February or January. At the time, she suggested allowing nonprofits to reimburse expenses as far back as mid-March, when Gov. Brian Kemp first declared a public health state of emergency.
Tuesday, south Cobb Commissioner Lisa Cupid asked her colleagues whether they would be willing to allow nonprofits to reimburse expenses on food as far back as mid-March. None signaled their willingness to support the change.
Ott said he had a number of issues with the proposal that have since been addressed. The money can’t be spent on vehicles to distribute the food, for example.
“We keep hearing the term ‘nonprofits.’ This is about food,” east Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott said.
Also, “as part of the requirement for the application by anyone seeking reimbursement or money for food, they have to include any previous grants they received and how much money they spent,” Ott said. “Because as Commissioner (Keli) Gambrill mentioned yesterday, we don’t need to be giving money to folks that have already gotten grant money and still have money to spend.”
The lone vote in opposition was Gambrill, who has at times questioned nonprofits’ claims of surging demand and diminished finances.
In other business, the board postponed consideration of a proposal to give certain employees deemed “essential” hazard pay of $500 per month.
Most county employees have been working from home since before Boyce declared a state of emergency in the county. But some considered essential by their department heads have reported to work as they would otherwise, potentially exposing themselves to the coronavirus.
At a meeting Monday morning, Gambrill said the board should not vote on the measure until the county could provide an estimate of the proposal’s cost, a concern shared by other members of the board.
Commissioners also took care of some old business Tuesday. They voted unanimously to name a 103-acre park along the Chattahoochee River in Mableton “Discovery Park at the River Line.”
The naming of the park has been controversial.
The site, long known as “Johnston’s River Line,” is of historical import. The name comes from Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, who fought against Union forces in Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s Atlanta campaign during the Civil War. The park is expected to be a destination for people interested in local history.
Some said the inclusion of Johnston’s name would memorialize a Confederate general. Others said it would ignore the historical significance of the area, possibly affecting the Civil War tourists that the park could draw.
Cupid, whose district includes the park, said the name reflects both the history and the future of the site.
Commissioners also voted unanimously to name Randy Crider the county’s permanent director of its public safety agency, which oversees the Cobb 911, police and fire departments. Crider has served as the interim director of public safety since August 2019.
Ott said he has long thought the position unnecessary.
“In this particular case, what has changed is the agreement by you, Mr. Chairman, the county manager and Mr. Crider in changing the role of the public safety director,” Ott said. “What we need is someone to take a more global look at the county, create a strategic reserve. You know, this county is bigger than four states, and so I am happy that you and the county manager and Mr. Crider have agreed that is a direction this position needs to go.”