Business help for Clay County residents; ‘grace over grades’ for students

John Ward and sign language interpreter at Clay County emergency management briefing on Wednesday.
John Ward and sign language interpreter at Clay County emergency management briefing on Wednesday. (WJXT)

Clay County is gradually preparing to move into the next phase of the COVID-19 battle — recovery — and is taking a “grace over grades” approach to students’ academics during distance learning.

John Ward, the county’s director of emergency management, spent a good portion of time Wednesday talking about economic recovery for Clay County businesses and residents who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The economic fallout from the stay-at-home order and businesses closing down is unprecedented. Local businesses can information on what options are available to them through the Clay County Chamber of Commerce. Information on loan programs and information about what options are out there can be found on the chamber’s website here.

“We know there’s many businesses out there that are struggling to make ends meet and or could be potentially going out of business …,” he said.

“The chamber has got a lot of resources here that we can get into our community to help them. The federal government is putting many programs out that can assist our businesses during these times and into the future, because we really want to keep our small businesses and allow them to thrive after this passes so we can stimulate our economy again.”

Another interesting point from Wednesday’s Clay press conference came from interim superintendent David Broskie, who said that grades for students during distance learning would be a “grace over grades” mindset due to the situation.

“We do believe in grace and compassion. Every student learns differently. And now we’ve thrust all of these learners into a different environment. We’ve also thrust a group of parents into a whole different environment, too. So we’ve kind of said grace over grades, given the environment that we’re in, so, a worldwide pandemic. This is a very unusual time,” Broskie said.

“The advice was that students’ grades in the fourth quarter should not be below the average of the three quarters that they've already demonstrated.”

Broskie also added that traditional graduation was very important to the county and it would be held at some point in July.

Clay County’s battle with a rise in COVID-19 results at long-term care facilities has been a point of contention in recent weeks.

Heather Huffman, Florida Department of Health in Clay County administrator, said releasing information on diagnoses at facilities is something that’s never been done until now.

“We've never released that kind of information. This is the first time that you've been able to actually get facility information,” she said. “We don't see the value in telling you if it's one case or three at this point. It's not going to change your situation. The families are to be notified from that facility if there's a positive just like if there was another kind of communicable disease going on within that facility.”

Among other topics Ward covered on Wednesday

• Ward said the county has heard of those still in need of assistance for food, but Clay’s meal program is still available. The number for assistance is 877-252-9362.

“There should be no residents in our county needing food,” he said.

• Ward reminded Clay residents that they are able to get out and enjoy the weather and parks and waterways in the area as long as they practice social distancing.

• Clay residents, too, have options, when it comes to receiving guidance on unemployment and help.

Many have been frustrated and worn down by the state’s glitchy and unreliable system for requesting unemployment assistance.

“We know there's a lot of residents in Clay County that are currently unemployed. So, and we've heard there's a lot of problems with the website and the phone number,” Ward said of the state’s system.

“… If you call, we have ways to get you this information. We have paper applications that we can get you to help get you that those services that you need.”

The number for that assistance in Clay County is 877-252-9362.

Ward said information on reemployment and helping people get back in the workforce as soon as possible.

“We’re working with some partners in the regional area on setting up some reemployment services soon for our community,” Ward said. “And they’ll be more to come on that in the future but I want to let you know we’re trying to capitalize on those services for our citizens here.

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