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Fire depts. receive thousands

Things are looking a little brighter for the county’s seven volunteer fire departments after the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors earmarked $175,000 in CARES funds during its Tuesday, Sept. 8 meeting.

Each volunteer fire department will receive $25,000 to help with expenses.

Earlier this year the county was notified that it would receive $1,036,484 in CARES Act funds. A portion of those funds were allocated to each town in the county.

The fund the fire departments will receive is a portion of the second wave of CARES Acts funds also in the amount of $1,036,484 for a total of just over $2 million in funding.

The money is designed to provide ready funding to address unforeseen financial needs and risks created by the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The Charlotte County Fire and Rescue Association has seen those unforeseen financial needs when it comes to being able to hold fundraising events that often times account for much of the departments operating funds.

According to Association President Walt Bailey, the volunteer fire departments rely on donations and fundraising activities to fund approximately 20% of the department’s budget each year.

Bailey said the months of April and May are historically when fire departments hold fundraisers such as stews, chicken dinners, boot drives, or send out donation letters, and with this spring’s fundraisers canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the outlook was grim.

“At this point all fund raising is still shut down,” Bailey said. “Most of the events we do are public events and we can’t do those right now. We are very fortunate that the CARES Act funds came through. This is a huge boost for us.”

“Where would we be in this county without our volunteer fire departments?” Supervisor Kay Pierantoni said before the vote.  “How are they going to pay for their expenses if they can’t do any fundraising?”

Charlotte Courthouse Volunteer Fire Department Chief Chris Russell said his department is hoping to purchase much needed medical equipment with its portion of the funds.

“Hopefully, this allows us to purchase medical equipment such as a monitor/defibrillator and, or a respiratory ventilator to help those in an emergency medical need better,” he said.

The CARES Act funds must be used before the end of the year or returned to the state, and there are strict guidelines as to what the funds may be used for.