Poverty & Safety Net
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Cuyahoga County HHSA Committee approves emergency assistance contracts in June meetings

July 13, 2020
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The Cuyahoga County Health, Human Services and Aging Committee met twice during the month of June. In both meetings, they discussed emergency assistance for children and families who may find themselves in need due to crisis.

Seventy-nine percent of the contract is funded with federal dollars and 21 percent comes from county health and human services levy dollars

The first meeting on June 3 discussed a $750,000 clothing contract with J.C. Penney for children and families involved with, or at-risk of becoming involved with, the Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS). This contract originated on May 1, 2019 and was set to expire on April 30, 2020. The administration requested a one-year extension until April 30, 2021, after which, DCFS intends to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a new contract. Christine Alexander of the Division of Contract Administration and Performance for the Department of Health and Human Services, testified on behalf of DCFS in front of the committee. In her testimony, Alexander described how the contract is used. She said often these children and families need emergency clothing due to some type of crisis. The clothes are issued from J.C. Penney after a purchase order is received from a county social worker. These clothing items can also be requested by social workers for children who are placed in a foster care environment or are in kindship care. The clothing is available for children who are newborns to 18-years-old. Councilwoman Shontel Brown asked Alexander about the fact that J.C. Penney recently filed for bankruptcy, and what would need to happen to ensure that families are still able to access clothes, if the vendor closed its doors. Alexander said that the county would consider offering families a clothing allowance that could be used with other clothing retailers. Brown also wanted to find out if online shopping is an option for families, especially because the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic means many families aren’t able to shop at an in-store location. Alexander said that online purchasing is not yet an option, but that they are exploring that. Councilwoman Cheryl Stephens said that she encourages online capability to purchase the clothes. Seventy-nine percent of the contract is funded with federal dollars and 21 percent comes from county health and human services levy dollars. The contract was approved under second reading suspension and moved to the full council for consideration.

The June 17 meeting focused on a master contract worth $825,000 for emergency food and furniture access for children, families and caregivers who are approved for “Emergency Assistance.”

The June 17 meeting focused on a master contract worth $825,000 for emergency food and furniture access for children, families and caregivers who are approved for “Emergency Assistance” - That means children, families or caregivers who are in crisis and need support to divert further involvement with DCFS. The contract originated on May 1, 2018 and was set to expire on April 30, 2020. The administration requested the contract be extended for one more year to April 30, 2021. The contract is with four retailers, Dave’s Supermarket, National Mattress & Furniture Warehouse, West 25th Furnishings and Appliances, and A-Z Furniture. Alexander again testified in favor of the extension, and explained that the funding for food is provided in the form of gift cards, in increments of $25. These gift cards can be used for basic food items including fresh meat, dairy, bread and produce. They can also purchase special food items for infants, toddlers and those with dietary restrictions/allergies.

An RFP for the emergency food and furniture contract will be issued in November.

Alexander also said that furniture is provided after the county receives a pre-approved purchase order in accordance with an established product price list. She said the price list has remained the same since May 2018. Alexander explained purchase orders can be approved for items including basic household furnishings like bedroom furnishings, basic dining and living room furniture, as well as kitchen and laundry appliances. Similar to the contract approved earlier in the month, 79 percent of it is funded with federal emergency services dollars and 21 percent is funded through Health and Human Services Levy dollars. An RFP for the emergency food and furniture contract will be issued in November, with the hope to start in May of 2021. Council did not have many questions, the contract was approved under second reading suspension, and the contract was forwarded to the full council for consideration.

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