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Amid challenges, St. Clair County assistance agency found ways to help residents

Working via phone, email, drop box, and snail mail, staff of the St. Clair County Intergovernmental Grants & Economic Development Departments was still able to provide more than 22,000 St. Clair County families with a variety of assistance measures, Executive Director Rick Stubblefield said.

Rent and mortgage assistance, energy, water/sewer/trash pickup assistance, automobile/insurance/repair payments, food, and prescription assistance, and medical payments were all a part of the help, he said in a year-end note on the department’s challenges during the pandemic.

“We were able to provide over $250,000 of cash assistance directly to area food banks. We provided a quarter-million rubber gloves to low-income areas and continue to work with the St. Clair County Health Department and Emergency Management Services teams to explore other opportunities to provide PPE to townships and municipalities that cannot afford them,” he said.

CARES Act funding has been used to assist not-for-profits with PPE for on-site learning as well as restructuring after school programs so youth have a safe place to go, he said.  CARES Act funding is also being used to assist agencies that work with individuals with disabilities to ensure they remain open and have the funding necessary to maintain adequately trained staffing levels.

“We have expanded services to the homeless population to try and help shield them from the pandemic where we can, offering additional food and hotel vouchers as well as strengthening our permanent housing programs.”

Stubblefield said that despite the pandemic there are many employers expanding their workforce. Manufacturing and healthcare both have significant opportunities, and the Workforce Development Group continues to fund training in both areas.

“We have substantial training dollars available for employers in the form of apprenticeships and on-the-job training reimbursements. We are also assisting job seekers in the form of tuition assistance for classroom training,” he said.

St. Clair County continues to work with high schools to develop CTE and new apprenticeship programs. The Workforce Development Group expects to have more than 100 new apprentices enrolled in Department of Labor approved apprenticeship programs by early next year. These fields include solar energy technology, education, aviation maintenance, janitorial, welding, tool and die, machinist, agriculture, and healthcare. In addition, the Workforce Development Group has obligated $250,000 to area businesses in direct reimbursement for COVID related costs while the Community Development Group has awarded close to $900,000 to St. Clair County small businesses for COVID relief.

“While it has been trying at times and we have not been able to help everyone, I think we have been able to make a difference,” Stubblefield said.

PHOTO: St. Clair County Intergovernmental Grants & Economic Development Departments Executive Director Rick Stubblefield, left, addresses a group at SIUE last October. IBJ photo/Dennis Grubaugh

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