Another look at proposed CARES funding shows big quarantine space at KU, campground for homeless people, rental assistance and more

photo by: Nick Krug/Journal-World File Photo

Naismith Hall near the University of Kansas campus is pictured on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017.

Projects of all shapes and sizes are vying for their share of nearly $25 million in federal pandemic funding that has been allocated to Douglas County.

There’s a nearly half-million-dollar campground for homeless people (recommended for funding) and about $270,000 for tents for outdoor classrooms at KU (not recommended).

There’s training for the community to better recognize racial and diversity issues, and there are scanners for schools that not only will take your temperature but also can recognize your face.

There’s recommended funding to put air cleaning equipment on hundreds of City of Lawrence buildings, but a recommendation for denial of funding for air purification in public school buildings.

And there is lots more — tens of millions of dollars more — too. A few days ago I looked at the list of projects recommended for approval related to businesses and the general economy. As promised, today I’m honing in on the list of projects submitted by county and city governments, schools, universities, housing providers and a few other organizations.

As a reminder, Douglas County commissioners haven’t approved any projects yet. They have a list of projects recommended for funding, plus a much longer list not recommended. County commissioners are meeting Wednesday to further review the projects, and they will meet at 8 a.m. Friday to finalize a spending plan to send to the state for approval.

Also, some of these projects are going to create questions about how they work or about other details. I don’t have answers yet. The list of projects and related information is more than 800 pages long, so most of my time has been spent wading through that. As the list gets finalized, we’ll continue to report more on the details.

Here’s a look at some of the projects that caught my eye:

AIR QUALITY

The City of Lawrence is recommended to receive $710,000 for “Global Plasma Solutions” air cleaning equipment. The equipment would be installed on 330 air handling units on city buildings that total 1.3 million square feet.

However, at least two public school districts had their air quality projects recommended for denial, it appears. The Eudora school district had sought $120,000 for air purification systems for each of its attendance centers, according to its application. The Baldwin City school district had sought $80,000 for air purifiers for each HVAC unit. I didn’t find a similar type of project listed for the Lawrence school district, but it is recommended to receive about $45,000 for some air circulation improvements for some special education rooms.

QUARANTINE

The University of Kansas is seeking about $102,000 to lease the privately owned Naismith Hall, which is on the southern edge of the KU campus. The application states the property would give KU an “additional supply of single bedrooms to isolate and/or quarantine KU community who are symptomatic, awaiting test results, or positive for COVID-19 and cannot safely stay in their current residence due to isolation requirements.” The $102,404 is recommended for approval. It only would pay for rents through the end of 2020, as all CARES money must be spent before the new year begins.

OTHER KU FUNDING

KU has about $1.2 million in projects recommended for funding. The largest is $450,000 to fund a meal support program for about 450 students who will live in scholarship halls on campus. Residents of scholarship halls traditionally make their own meals in a shared kitchen. Pandemic concerns have altered that arrangement. The $450,000 will be used to help those students have money for traditional KU meal plans.

Also recommended for funding is about $300,000 to install 266 kiosks in academic buildings. The kiosks will be used in conjunction with a health monitoring app KU will be using. Also recommended for funding is $200,000 to purchase special types of respirators — powered air-purifying respirators — for instructors to use while providing in-person instruction.

Not recommended for funding, however, is about $270,000 that would have bought eight tents that would be used for outdoor classrooms on the KU campus. Each tent would have accommodated between 25 and 96 people, according to the application.

HOMELESSNESS

The City of Lawrence is recommended to receive $424,000 for a temporary campsite for homeless people. The money will be used to buy trailers that will provide toilets, hand washing and laundry facilities. There also will be some money to contract with a social service provider who can provide services at the campsite. A location for the site wasn’t discussed in the application.

The Lawrence Community Shelter is recommended to receive about $367,000 for capital improvements and renovations. Those include creating a quarantine/isolation space, remodeling of bathrooms, HVAC work, security improvements, and the resurfacing of the homeless shelter’s parking lot. In addition to the CARES money, the shelter would use about $480,000 of other federal money that comes through the Community Development Block Grant program. In a separate request, the shelter also is seeking to buy a 12-person van, along with other supplies.

The shelter also has been recommended for about $240,000 in funding to pay for hotel rooms. The program could serve about 160 individuals at a cost of about $50 per night through the end of the year, the application indicates.

The Kansas City-based nonprofit Artists Helping the Homeless is recommended to receive $125,000 for a temporary shelter. The shelter will focus on serving people recently released from jail, hospitals or recovery units, according to the application. It looks like it may use hotel rooms for some of its needs. The application lists $53,000 for “hotel rent.” It also budgets $20,000 for food from September through the end of the year. The application indicated the shelter would serve about 10 people per week.

RENTAL ASSISTANCE

Tenants to Homeowners and Family Promise would team up to provide rent assistance for people in need. The two nonprofits would work with many nonprofits across the county to identify people in need. The project is recommended to receive $850,000 in funding. The application indicates at least 200 households have been identified as candidates for the program.

Lawrence’s Habitat for Humanity also is recommended for about $35,000 in mortgage assistance. It could be used to help provide up to two months of mortgage assistance for low-income residents and seniors.

DCCCA is recommended to get about $34,000 to help people who are discharged from drug and alcohol treatment programs make deposits for rent and other costs related to securing safe housing.

RACIAL EQUITY

The City of Lawrence is recommended to receive $115,000 in funding for racial equity and diversity training. The application says training sessions, which will be geared towards community facilitators and other targeted audiences, will “build capacity in organizations and institutions that serve our community to help advance racial equity in Douglas County.” The application notes the COVID-19 crisis will “have an impact that will be most deeply felt in Black, indigenous, people of color and low wealth communities.”

K-12 FUNDING

The Lawrence school district is recommended to receive about $1.04 million for future costs. (The district also is scheduled to get reimbursed for about $183,000 in expenses it already has incurred related to the pandemic.)

One of the larger new expenses is $145,600 for “thermal imaging/face recognition scanners,” according to the district’s application. The portion of the application that is online doesn’t provide any more information about the devices, but they clearly are used to check a person for a fever. Various articles note many organizations also use the dual function of the device that can recognize the faces of employees, for example, eliminating the need for keycards and other such devices. Again, I have no idea if the district plans to use the facial recognition part of the devices. That is something we’ll follow as the devices roll out. Not related to the school district, but the City of Lawrence is recommended to receive $66,000 in funding to purchase 55 “thermal temperature scanners” for high-use public buildings.

Other large items for the Lawrence school district include $106,000 for internet hotspots to help students who may not have access to broadband, and a whole lot of protective equipment, including hand sanitizer, sneeze guards, masks and other cleaning supplies.

The Eudora school district is recommended for about $215,000 in funding, with $150,000 of it used for “high capacity thermometers.” The Baldwin City school district is set to receive about $127,000 in funding, with its largest item being $50,000 for hand sanitizer.

Private schools also are recommended to get some funding as follows: Corpus Christi Catholic School, $70,017; St. John’s Catholic School, $1,177; Bishop Seabury Academy, $19,410; Veritas Christian School, $42,145.

AFTER-SCHOOL FUNDING

The Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence is recommended to receive about $193,000 in funding to provide a place for children while Lawrence public schools start the school year with six weeks of online-only instruction. The program will “assist youth with their distance learning and offer academic and enriching activities,” according to the application.

The City of Lawrence also is scheduled to receive $8,100 in funding to staff monitored classrooms in parks and recreation facilities to fill gaps that the Boys & Girls Club can’t fill.

CHILDCARE

Childcare Aware of Eastern Kansas is recommended to receive about $364,000 to fund a voucher program that will help people pay for child care for “infants, toddlers and preschoolers.” The vouchers will be offered on a sliding scale based on a family’s income. Families up to 240% of the federal poverty level may be eligible, according to the application.

A related group, Childcare Aware of Kansas, is recommended to receive about $397,595 to provide “financial support directly to licensed care centers and family child care programs,” according to the application. Other details of the program weren’t clear in the application.

The City of Lawrence is recommended to receive about $62,000 to fund a child care program through the parks and recreation department. Most of the funding is devoted to providing child care for local government employees, but part of it will fund a program for the general public, it appears.

UTILITY BILLS

The City of Lawrence is recommended to receive about $500,000 for a utility assistance program that can help qualifying households that have fallen behind on their city utility bills because of the pandemic. The City of Eudora is recommended to receive about $163,000 for a similar program.

LIBRARIES

The Lawrence Public Library is recommended to receive about $69,000 for 50 Chromebook laptops and 50 hotspots that can be loaned out to the community. Baldwin City’s library is recommended to get about $10,000 in funding for 10 laptops and 10 hotspots, while Eudora is recommended to get about $23,000 in funding for 20 laptops and 20 hotspots.

FOOD

The Lawrence-based food bank Just Food is recommended to receive about $97,000 in funding for food purchases. It also is recommended to receive about $300,000 for building improvements, including a remodeling plan that will make the food pantry area about twice its current size. The organization has raised about $145,000 for the project currently, according to the application.


COMMENTS

Welcome to the new LJWorld.com. Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.