Tusayan approves $25,000 to aid residents affected by economic shortages amid COVID-19 shutdowns
TUSAYAN, Ariz. – The Tusayan Town Council held a special meeting March 18 to address immediate threats to Tusayan town residents and non-salaried employees extending to the Valle area who might be affected by closures and restrictions related to COVID-19 precautions.
Currently, there have been no documented cases of the infection in the community, however strident measures have been taken by businesses citywide to prevent possible transmission, as park visitors continue to arrive.
As of March 16, businesses throughout Tusayan began to restrict or remove access to heavily-trafficked places such as restaurant dining rooms, buffets and other vulnerable areas, which in turn caused many non-salaried employees to be without available work options indefinitely, and essentially suffering immediate loss of income. As resources and access are becoming more limited, residents are now faced with the dilemma of how to provide for themselves as well as their families. Even during normal circumstances, it is not always easy for residents of Tusayan to obtain needed items, as many do not own vehicles and shuttle services are limited to specified days and times.
Additionally, persons and families in need of extra assistance are usually able to receive supplemental food supplies every third Wednesday of the month through the Tusayan Food Bank. However, the Food Bank has faced extreme shortages since the restrictions have been in place, and are currently unable to obtain supplies, especially personal hygiene items, quickly enough to keep up with the recent increase in demand.
To combat these issues, Tusayan Council passed a motion to authorize Town Manager Cynthia Seelhammer to spend a maximum of $25,000 in collaboration with non-profits, charities and other public agencies to ensure the well-being of residents during this unprecedented economic situation.
This would include expenditures on food and hygiene items, transportation assistance, which may include gas vouchers for workers that own vehicles, and delivery services to persons in need due to the suspension of shuttle services into the park.
Testing options limited
There is also the matter of limited access to COVID-19 testing options for residents.
Currently, North Country Healthcare has two locations in Flagstaff offering limited testing, as federal restrictions are still in place regarding who is considered eligible to receive tests.
The Grand Canyon Clinic is a branch of the North Country Healthcare system, however the clinic has yet to receive any test kits. This point was considered by councilmembers to be of extreme concern as cases of infection continue to increase statewide, with one presumed case in Coconino County thus far.
In response, the council passed a motion to direct town staff to take necessary action to designate the Town Hall as a Point of Dispensing (POD) for the County Health Department once testing options become available. It was determined that it would be essential for testing to be provided in town as soon as possible, as so many residents face transportation issues.
Currently, individuals interested in testing are being advised to call testing centers beforehand in order to ensure eligibility, and are encouraged to not seek out rides from others to avoid potential exposure. There are currently no private/in-house testing options for residents, and the use of ambulances for transport to testing centers is strongly discouraged, due to cost and availability issues.
The town council is currently drafting a pre-emptive Declaration of Emergency to address the financial impact of the COVID-19 related precautions, in order to allow access to the town’s $9 million in savings, should such a measure be deemed necessary. As current state-imposed limits are not enough to provide assistance to the community at this level of need, accessing these funds would allow the town to ensure residents’ utilities, wellness and food needs will continue to be met as the situation continues to impact the community indefinitely.
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