Rochester Receives Initial CARES Act Check

            Plymouth County Treasurer Thomas O’Brien’s first delivery of $33,602.20 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds will have many applications in the Town of Rochester, not the least of which are the services that the town provides for its senior citizens. The Senior Center is closed, but the activities of the Rochester Council on Aging are running.

            “We have socialization, we distribute food, but this equipment really helped us to get people in the door,” said COA Director Cheryl Randall of the personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitization products for the center. “(Fire Chief Scott Weigel) got a fogger for us so whenever we have, not a huge group but more people than usual, we always fog. For example, we had early voting this week and it was quite active, which is great, so we fog every night in addition to the cleaning that’s done…. We sanitize the building and our vans.… It’s been really crucial to have these supplies.”

            COA programming is just one area where the rubber meets the road in the application of CARES Act funding. Behind the scenes of the coronavirus pandemic, town administrators have been working creatively as well as diligently to identify needs, find solutions, plan implementation, and scrape up the funds to achieve them.

            The CARES Act reimburses non-budgeted expenditures that have resulted from COVID-19, and the check of $33,602.20 hand delivered by O’Brien to Rochester Town Administrator Suzanne Szyndlar on October 23 outside Town Hall represents only a drop in the bucket. Rochester is eligible for approximately $700,000 in COVID-related reimbursements, and the list of needs is as long as it is diverse.

            Szyndlar says the application under current preparation will include expenditures related to the adaptation of town buildings and schools, such as Old Rochester Regional High School, ORR Junior High, Rochester Memorial School, and Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School.

            The far-reaching effects of the pandemic require meticulous recordkeeping, but so far town officials have been thrilled with the comprehensive service provided by Plymouth County in the administration of CARES Act funds. “It’s a good thing we’re under the Plymouth County (administration), they’ve treated us very well,” said Szyndlar.

            The amount received on October 23 was relatively small in the grand scheme, but the effects have already been felt at the Senior Center. While the facility is not operating at full capacity, Randall and the COA are working with town officials to ensure seniors can maximize access as allowed under state orders.

            “People come in [and] if they don’t have a mask, we give them a mask. Some people – the elders – they need a fresh mask. They don’t get out a lot, but if they come to see us, we give them a mask or two and encourage them to wear it wherever they go,” said Randall. “We do a lot of delivery because people stay in, and we deliver food at least two or three times a month.”

            The COA partners with Boston Food Bank, Coastline, and PACE. “We pick it up in New Bedford, we bring it to the center, people come and get it, and if they can’t, we deliver it,” said Randall of the touchless delivery practice. “We’ve been active. The phones have been busy because people are alone at home, so it’s good to be in touch with everyone. But this equipment [is] a godsend to get people in the door.”

By Mick Colageo

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