Hand sanitizer, face masks and Plexiglass are among items the city of Jackson and Hinds County have purchased since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
The city of Jackson has spent more than $4 million on supplies needed during the pandemic, said Robert Blaine, Ph.D., the city’s chief administrative officer through Jan. 30. (He will begin work on Feb. 1 for the National League of Cities, the nation’s largest membership and advocacy organization for local elected officials, as the director of the league’s Institute for Youth, Education and Families.)
Last November, the city was reimbursed $4 million for the expenses from funding the state of Mississippi received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, he said.
“The CARES Act requires the city have cash on hand, purchase personal protective equipment and be reimbursed,” he said. “It’s not free money. You have to have the money on hand and then hope you’ll be reimbursed.”
The most recent payments the Jackson City Council approved on Dec. 22 include $514,232 to L&N Enterprises in Florence for deep cleaning and weekly spray services; $39,227 Cincinnati-based Cintas for weekly spray and hand sanitizing services; and $20,625 to SGE Covid Solutions in Jackson for COVID-19 disinfecting supplies.
Also approved were payments to Jackson Paper Company in Flowood for $1,930 for COVID-19 disinfecting supplies; Business and Office Konnextions in Jackson for $1,390 for COVID-19 disinfecting supplies; Glass Plus in Jackson for $710 worth of Plexiglass for city offices; and Staffers in Jackson for $660.49 for COVID-19 temporary staff.
Expenses have included buying personal protective equipment for the city’s first responders, including police officers, fire fighters and emergency responders as well as purchasing laptops for city employees working remotely, Blaine said.
“We have moved to a virtual working situation for many employees so that means there are laptops and cell phones that had to be purchased,” he said.
Blaine said the city’s cash reserves are sufficient so that it can front the costs of supplies needed because of the pandemic. “We have to carefully document all of the expenses we have,” he said.
Hinds County Supervisor Robert Graham, who represents Ward 1 and serves as board president, said he couldn’t give a dollar amount about how much the county has spent to purchase COVID-related supplies because supplies such as hand sanitizer are still being purchased as the pandemic continues. Two grants have been helpful with providing funding for needed supplies, he said.
Last September, the Hinds County Election Commission received a $1.5 million grant to make voting safer from the Chicago-based Center for Tech and Civic Life. The grant was used to buy PPE equipment as well as extra voting machines and electronic poll books used during the General Election on Nov. 3, 2020.
Last November, the Arnold Schwarzenegger Institute awarded Hinds County a grant for $25,000 that was used to pay for personal protective equipment.
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Facebook, and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, provided $350 million to the Center for Tech and Civic Life to promote safe and reliable voting in states and local governments during the pandemic.
The county purchased facial recognition thermometers for the Hinds County Courthouses, the Chancery Court Building, the Election Commission and the sheriff’s office, Brown said. “You just walk up to it and the thermometer takes your temperature — it’s touchless,” he said.
Hinds County purchased equipment and supplies to disinfect county offices and county employees take care of that task, he said. “It doesn’t take a lot of training to be able to sanitize a room or an office,” he said.
Hinds County purchased enough masks for every man, woman and child in the county to have one, Graham said, and distributed them during a giveaway last December.