Committee expresses ‘disappointment’ at lack of federal support for Voorhees

Camden County got CARES Act money, but the township received nothing

Exactly one month after passage of the federal CARES Act providing immediate relief to individuals, businesses, agencies and governments impacted by COVID-19, the Voorhees Township Committee expressed its disappointment in the impact the package had on local municipalities.

During its virtual meeting April 27, the committee voted for a resolution to express its  displeasure at not receiving federal CARE Act funds due to specifics in the bill.

The resolution describes Voorhees as a “veritable mecca of health-care facilities,” with more long-term care establishments within its borders than any other municipality in Camden County, at 14.

“It’s (the resolution) basically saying that for the next round of funding, if [a state shutdown] is to continue to go on, don’t forget about those small towns,” said Administrator Larry Spellman. “It would help to keep things afloat; it would go towards funds that we’re not receiving other sources right now because of the shutdown.”

Through the CARES Act, $82.2 million of the $2.2 trillion in funds were allocated to New Jersey, to be distributed among various counties and municipalities with populations of at least 50,000. While Camden County received funding, Voorhees Township, with a population at about 30,000, got nothing.

“We felt strongly as a committee that the concept of using population as an indicator for who will be awarded funds is a nebulous concept to us,” Deputy Mayor Michelle Nocito said. “Even though we have 30,000 residents, we have the most long-term care facilities in Camden County.

“Every single person that is in one of those long-term care facilities is a Voorhees resident to us, which means we care deeply about their health and the outcome of the care they are receiving.”

According to recent data from the state Department of Health, a study of 450 long-term care facilities showed more than 10,000 positive COVID-19 cases. Locally in Voorhees, Lion’s Gate Continuing Care Retirement Community has reported at least 50 positive cases, with nine deaths, while Voorhees Center has reported 62 cases and at least six deaths.

“If the award is based off of need, we weren’t even considered for funding,” Nocito said. “We provide more medical services, in our opinion, than Cherry Hill or Gloucester Township. We’re not immune to the outbreaks in the long-term care facilities from the COVID-19 virus … They are substantial.

“To not allow us to be included in the additional support underneath of that grant is extremely disappointing.”

Besides Camden County, Gloucester Township and Cherry Hill also received CARES Act money.

As of the resolution’s passage at the committee meeting, the aggregate number of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases within Camden County was over 2,000, with nearly 100 deaths; meanwhile, Voorhees itself had more than 150 confirmed cases and 18 fatalities.

According to the township, a copy of the resolution was to be sent to state representatives.

After the April 27 meeting, the township held an emergency session two days later regarding Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order extending the grace period for collection of second-quarter property taxes to June 1. The committee then adopted a resolution allowing for the extended grace period.

“Please be advised this is an extension of the grace period only,” said a statement from the township on social media. “Payment must be received by the end of business on June 1, 2020 to avoid interest. For any payment received after the expiration of the grace period … interest will be applied retroactively to May 1, 2020 in accordance with New Jersey law.”

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