Alder Blocks Covid Grant Fast-Track

Thomas Breen file photoA Westville alder single-handedly blocked the Health Department’s request for the expedited approval of a $100,000 Covid-19 support grant.

He defended the move as forcing the city to follow the proper legislative vetting process.

The city decried the move as putting at risk much-needed potential funding for infection control during the current pandemic.

That debate played out Monday night over the course of the latest regular full Board of Alders meeting.

The alders meeting, and the public information caucus that preceded it, took place online via the Zoom videoconferencing platform, as City Hall remains largely closed to the public because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

During the full board meeting, Westville Alder and Health & Human Services Committee Chair Darryl Brackeen, Jr. voted against providing unanimous consent to the city’s request to apply for and accept a $100,000 Covid-19 “capacity building” grant from the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO).

ZoomThat grant, according to a letter and executive summary submitted to the alders by Health Director Maritza Bond, would pay for the hiring of two part-time infection control nurses who would work with high-risk local healthcare facilities on “developing and strengthening their infection and prevention control policies.”

The grant would also help “facilitate capacity building within the NHHD [New Haven Health Department] to establish new partnerships within the community and at-risk populations to support infection control and Covid-19 practices,” including through the formation of a city-wide infection control committee.

Bond told the alders during Monday’s public information caucus that the grant application deadline was July 1—and that the city had already sent in its application on June 29. She said NACCHO plans to notify selected grantees on July 21. Monday’s request for unanimous consent represented the city circling back to make sure it got the necessary legislative approval on the time-sensitive matter.

But the city didn’t receive that requested legislative fast track Monday.

Instead, the grant application and receipt request must now go through the typical aldermanic committee hearing process—which could push a full board vote on the item until as late as September.

City spokesperson Gage Frank warned Tuesday afternoon that pushing this item off of a legislative fast track and onto the regular aldermanic approval timeline could endanger the city’s ability to accept the funds at all.

“The NACCH is providing funding opportunities to all 50 states,” he wrote. “The City applied for the funding, with support from the State Department of Public Health and other City partners, and requested an expedited approval process from the Alders because the grantor gave the Health Department less than 30 days for submission. With the rejection of unanimous consent, the $100,000 grant may have to be returned to NACCH.”

The grant fast-track denial comes at a time when local health directors throughout the state—including Bond—have criticized Hartford for cutting funding to local agencies amidst a public health emergency.

City Was “Trying To Go Around The Process”

Thomas Breen file photoBrackeen defended the move Tuesday morning by invoking the Board of Alders’s legal responsibility to provide public oversight and vetting of public spending, which includes grant applications.

“This health department has a history, beyond [the current director], of trying to go around the process,” he said. “They then come to us and try to make us look like we’re the problem.”

Brackeen said that the Health Department should have known about the availability of this federally funded NACCH grant as early as May 15, when the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it would award the agency $10.25 billion to be passed along to states, localities, and territories to build Covid-19 response capacity.

“If you’re doing your job and following the federal legislation process, you would have seen that these funds would have been made available when that indication showed up,” he said. “We should have had a hearing in anticipation of the grant process being rolled out.”

Brackeen dismissed the notion that the city might lose the grant funds by following the typical legislative hearing timeline. If the city is awarded the grant, he said, “We will accept these funds. The funds are not going anywhere. We’re not going to lose it.”

During the public information caucus before Monday’s vote, Board of Alders Majority Leader and Amity/Westville Alder Richard Furlow stressed to Bond the importance of going through the proper committee hearing process for grants, especially for ones like the NAACH grant, which the city is seeking for the first time.

“They need to come before committee to be properly vetted and so that we can know what this information is,” he said.

Furlow asked Bond if the city rushed to apply for the grant without first going through the committee hearing process because of a time crunch between when the city learned of the grant and when the grant application had to be submitted.

“It’s another Covid-19 grant opportunity that just came in,” Bond said. “I do apologize. Otherwise, we would follow the proper protocol, as the team that works with me understands the process. This was another Covid-19 response opportunity that just came in to support our response in the event that we get another surge.”

Brackeen was unswayed Monday night. “I still have major issues,” he said before the end of the public information caucus.

Then, during the full board meeting, when Board of Alders President Tyisha Walker-Myers asked if anyone present planned to deny unanimous consent on the item, Brackeen said he would.

“Ok,” Walker-Myers continued. “So, unanimous consent has been denied. So I will move it to a communication,” and send it along to a committee for a subsequent public hearing.

“This is not the first time that city departments have tried to find a way around the process,” Brackeen told the Independent Tuesday. “There is no risk here if individuals were doing their jobs correctly.”

posted by: Alder Brackeen on July 8, 2020  11:48am

For every person seeking to attack me in these comments, it visible you was looking to attack me anyway, and I have a strong record to stand on. As for my morality, I authored the Public Health resolution and so many other impact orders and resolutions, so please have several seats. First of all, the health department applied already according to the article above on the 29th (without permission). Let me repeat they applied already, therefore no funding will be stopped. Secondly, I did not give my consent to this item, because it was not known by anyone until extremely late what the item was. I will never vote blindly, maybe you want that of your elected officials, but not this one. You all are commenting as if I voted NO, which I did not. Secondly, if you all were informed, you would also know my committee just passed approval for MILLIONS of dollars that will be given to places like Regal to address their needs. So please stop the gas-lighting. If Regal needs the 100,000, they have an opportunity to receive those dollars through the process I just oversaw with my co-chair.  I stand by the decision to ensure that we follow our legally bound and charter bound duty. I will not apologize for actually doing my job. We have checks and balances, and I will ensure we abide by them.

posted by: Alder Brackeen on July 8, 2020  5:15pm

Once again, it’s clear that I wasn’t clear. The health department already applied. Let me translate that means they already applied, and it’s not coming back because it was submitted. After further investigation, it turns out they didn’t need approval at this stage and phase until they were notified on July 21st that the city would be considered (grants are never a guarantee, especially last-minute submissions). At that point, we have 30 DAYS to give our approval. I realize I’m the comment section, and probably the worst place to make a valid, legal, and legitimate point. Or maybe its because you don’t want to hear it from me, but again our approval of this grant would have been blind at that time, as we did not have all of the information to vote in an informed manner. There are 5 million dollars that is going to be disseminated to places like Regal; no one is missing out on anything. Also, you missed the COVID-19 Ryan White grant (of which we were fully informed of) was unanimously voted on and accepted at the meeting. There is a process; whether you like the process or not is not up to me, I didn’t create the charter no was I here for its revision. Until its changed, we will do our job as stated by the charter. We have checks and balances. As long as I am able, I will hold city government departments accountable, as it is my charge to the people I represent. PLEASE TELL THE WHOLE STORY.

posted by: Patricia Kane on July 8, 2020  5:56pm

“This health department has a history, beyond [the current director], of trying to go around the process,” he said. “They then come to us and try to make us look like we’re the problem.” Alder Brackeen.
    So what is the real issue here?
    What mistakes did the Board of Alders make in connection with Health Dept. grants beforethat it wants to correct now? When was the Board of Alders made to look like the problem?
    The funds are not at risk. Correct?
    Hiring 2 p-t nurses during a pandemic to beef up services is not an issue. Correct?
    So why insist on the slow-mo process versus the fast track?
    What will the Board of Alders learn from slowing down the process?
    Will it learn anything more than is already in this article?
    There is something disingenuous about claiming the process must be extended when the
Board of Alders routinely dispose of much bigger grants and issues by unanimous consent on a regular basis.
    It appears that the Board of Alders has taken an adversarial approach to the Mayor. Suing City for advice that he is stuck with implementing an agreement made under a previous Mayor is an extreme approach to the dispute and ultimately wasteful of taxpayer money.
    We have seen the City pursue losing causes repeated in the prior administration and cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars. When will we learn to find other ways to resolution?
      I don’t like the deal to pay Ricci over and above his pension either,  but if the litigation is going to cost as much as the payment to Ricci, then it will have been a waste.
      In the meantime, I’m still waiting for the Board’s Resolution calling for a repeal of the racist drug laws and an appeal to our Connecticut officials to get it done.