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Hospice ‘disappointed’ with handling of funding request

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 4:50 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Who is supposed to get the money? Hospice of Jefferson County is looking to get nearly $500,000 of the $23 million the city of Watertown was given in COVID-19 relief. Hospice says the process to get that money has been disappointing.

“I’ll make a motion to table this,” Watertown Mayor Jeff Smith said during Monday night’s city council meeting.

With that motion, hospice won’t be getting the money it was hoping to get from the city’s COVID-19 relief fund - at least not for now.

The $445,000 would be used to upgrade the ventilation system as hospice expands, building another 4 rooms, two of which would be “negative pressure rooms” that’ll help prevent the spread of viruses like COVID.

Council members Lisa Ruggiero and Leonard Spaziani support the move. They say it supports exactly what the American Rescue Plan was made to do.

“They have a right to it through the description of what the federal government says it can be used for,” said Spaziani.

Ruggiero added that if council can spend $1 million of its American Rescue Plan money on an amphitheater, it can give $445,000 to hospice, which she says is a necessity, not a want.

Smith and council members Ryan Henry-Wilkinson and Sarah Compo Pierce say it wouldn’t be fair to give money to one non-profit and not others.

“There are other needs in our community, and I think before we make such a serious decision to allocate nearly half a million dollars we have to take it all into consideration,” said Compo Pierce.

But leaders with hospice say it’s not about being better or more deserving than other organizations. It’s to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

“Taking care of patients with six months or less to live and their families adds an immediacy to our mission and differentiates our services,” said Diana Woodhouse, CEO, before the motion was tabled.

Then on Tuesday, she issued a statement, which said, “It’s unfortunate that our resolution was introduced too late in the evening for meaningful dialogue. I am also disappointed with how our request for funding has been handled over the last two months.” (See the full statement below)

Council mentioned it could create a process similar to what small businesses did under the CARES Act and have non-profits apply for funding, saying that would give each organization a fair shot.

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