Niagara Falls is on a mission to move forward in maintaining access to COVID-19 test kits for residents.
In a press event held Thursday, Mayor Robert Restaino discussed the proposal for the reallocation of Community Development Block Grant funds toward the purchase of COVID-19 test supplies.
“My administration worked very hard with our various partners to increase test sites in the community, increase testing in the general community, and decrease the spread of the virus in Niagara Falls,” he said. “The sudden shift in resources at the request of federal authorities endangers the community and can significantly roll back the progress we’ve made.” Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center was acting as a leader for the Niagara Falls community testing. However, NFMMC had to pause its community COVID-19 testing program when Kaleida Health Laboratories, its testing partner, encountered testing supply chain issues.
Michael P. Hughes, Kaleida Health’s senior vice president and chief of staff, said, “Testing has been a challenge since COVID-19 hit Western New York. You have to remember that we are competing statewide, nationally, and internationally ever y day when it comes to testing and the supplies related to it. So, it’s a battle for our laboratory and purchasing teams.”
The City of Niagara Falls is considered to be an area with a highly vulnerable population in regard to COVID-19. To combat this, the city wants to ensure access to testing and significantly reduce turnaround times that would be exclusively for Niagara Falls residents.
The proposal in partnership with NFMMC would act to get testing facilities up and running once the funding is approved and these tests become available.
“We are grateful to Mayor Restaino, the Niagara Falls City Council and the city’s Community Development team for providing grant funding that will help defray costs and enable our mobile COVID-19 testing teams to restart community testing,” Memorial Medical Center President and CEO Joseph A. Ruffolo said. “We have mapped the addresses of every person we have tested as positive for the novel coronavirus, identified hot spot clusters, and will target those locations as we focus on making tests available to the most vulnerable populations in the city.”
Niagara Falls is looking to utilize funds, deemed eligible by the city’s comptroller, from CDBG accounts toward this cause. Restaino explained the urgency for this funding to be authorized, as testing has become a scarce resource without it.
“At a critical time when schools need to reopen, the city can ill afford to be limited on the supplies needed to provide a safe reopening,” he said. “In addition, I am concerned that our seniors, nursing home residents and other vulnerable populations will not obtain the prompt testing necessary to protect them. Working with (NFMMC), I am confident that the resources the city is providing will properly attend to the needs of our seniors, schools, university and other community groups. This will help the city stay ahead of the virus and protect our residents.”
Congressman Brian Higgins said, “Widespread access to testing and timely results provide our community with the best opportunity to limit the spread of COVID. Using a portion of the more than $1.4 million in federal CDBG funding, the City of Niagara Falls received through the CARES Act to expand testing meets the need of this public health emergency. I commend Mayor Restaino for proactively seeking solutions to keep the residents of Niagara Falls safe and healthy.”
Restaino is asking the City Council to hold a special meeting Aug. 7 to authorize the use of these CDBG funds as an emergency expenditure for residents.