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Some St. Joe County residents frustrated after commission vetoes grant

Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 5:49 PM EDT
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ST. JOE COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - Some local faith community leaders are angry, frustrated, and outraged.

About a dozen gathered for a pre-dawn press conference early Tuesday morning outside the County-City Building.

“Why? Why did they veto a grant that they asked for?” asked Rabbi Michael Freedland with Faith in Indiana.

Rabbi Freedland was referring to a veto vote taken a week ago by the St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners.

By a 2-to-1 margin, the commissioners vetoed a measure that would have accepted a $3 million federal grant that would have funded up to eight additional community health workers.

“It’s not a slam against any population, anybody in St. Joe County, the health department anything like that,” said Commissioner Derek Dieter who voted in favor of the veto. “It’s just my, my take on the verbiage of the grant.”

Dieter showed 16 News Now fine print that says a grant recipient “must comply with existing and future guidance from the HHS Secretary regarding control of the spread of COVID-19.”

According to Commissioner Dieter, “If the federal government mandates, or CDC, or HHS or something that they want done, you have to adhere to that as part of the grant.”

Commissioner Dr. Deb Fleming also voted in favor of the veto. “What’s going to happen is that, oh my gosh, no. You’re going to have to do this. You’re going to have to be, you know, have mask mandates. You’re going to have to have vaccine mandates.”

While veto supporters concentrate on what unintended consequences could come to be if the grant is accepted, the faith community leaders are focused on what won’t come to be without it.

“Last year, we lost my brother to COVID. Just like I, and many others had done, he waited too long to seek treatment,” said Clara Davis with Abundant Faith Family Ministry.

“We were going to triple the number of community health care workers. Up to eight more health care workers in this community, to do outreach and to bring resources of the health care to all of our community,” noted Rabbi Michael Freedland with Faith in Indiana.

Rabbi Freedland called upon the county council to override the veto at a special meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday night.

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