Pandemic Critically Influences USA Gaming Funds Decisions

The COVID-19 pandemic weighed heavily on members of the Washington County Gaming Commission last month as they discussed which organizations would get gaming funds when it had less money to give out, its chairman said Wednesday.

Pandemic Critically Influences USA Gaming Funds Decisions

“It was quite difficult, to be honest. But we really took a look at the areas of greatest need,” Chairman Brian Getz said.

As a result, commission members didn’t award any gaming funds to nonprofits seeking money for recreation or cultural/arts programs or operations.

“That was a very difficult decision,” said Getz, who was a softball coach for more than 20 years and taught drama at Smithsburg High School.

It would have been difficult to award a chunk of limited resources to cultural or recreation groups when many weren’t open or holding events or were reducing activities because of the pandemic, Getz said. The money has to be used within the year, so the commission decided to give it to charitable organizations that could use the money “right now.”

The commission is distributing $836,188 to 40 charitable organizations. That includes about $409 that the Hagerstown Colt and Palomino League didn’t spend last fiscal year that was rolled into this year’s fund, Grant Management Director Susan Buchanan said.

The overall gaming revenue for the fiscal year that ended June 30 totaled $1.67 million, which is $373,441 — or 18.3% — less than a year ago.

Half of the revenue goes to the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, which evenly splits its share among the association and the volunteer fire and EMS companies, President Dale Fishack said.

The gaming commission reviewed 77 applications from 70 charitable groups to decide who got the other half of the gaming revenue.

Many organizations that sell tip jars, the source of the gaming funds, were closed in the spring because of the pandemic and not all have reopened, officials said.

Fishack said he expects gaming revenue to continue to be lower than usual because many places that are now selling tip jars are probably seeing fewer gamblers because of social distancing and occupancy limits.

At the same time, many of the groups that benefit from gaming funds — charities and fire and rescue companies — canceled fundraisers because of the novel coronavirus.

The largest awards were $150,000 for the Community Free Clinic and $75,000 for Reach of Washington County.

Clinic Executive Director Nicole Houser said she was excited to learn the clinic was getting $150,000 when bars, were many tip jars are played, were closed for so long because of Gov. Larry Hogan’s pandemic orders.

The clinic couldn’t have its St. Patrick’s Day Run Fest, Mudd Valleyball Tournament or 30th anniversary gala fundraisers because of the pandemic, Houser said. Those events could have raised around $80,000 to $89,000, she said.

Houser said a revamped Muddy 20 challenge fundraiser is underway in which participants challenge others to dump a bucket of mud over their heads, similar to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Clinic officials are figuring out how they can have some form of their popular Potters Bowl fundraiser this fall, but it will look very different, she said.

The nonprofit also secured some emergency grants and a $149,000 payroll protection program loan that could be forgiven.

The Mill Street clinic began seeing patients inside again in June, after having them drive up to get their meds, Houser said. They are seeing more new clients because of people losing jobs. In May, the clinic slowly started letting its volunteer providers come back to the clinic, after restricting the building to paid staff to minimize traffic as they took precautions to limit virus spread.

Executive Director Dana Jenkins said Reach of Washington County is working on how it can still have its Taste of the Town fundraiser this fall, though she doesn’t expect an indoor gathering.

The nonprofit secured at least two emergency grants, Jenkins said.

Reach officials are “thrilled” to receive gaming funds during these challenging times, Jenkins said.

Reach had made adjustments to maintain safety and continue providing services, including its day service program, Jenkins said. That program offers crisis services such as eviction prevention and utility deposits.

The nonprofit is gearing up for its cold weather shelter, which is open from late October to early April. Officials are following county, state and federal recommendations for safe practices, Jenkins said.

the article is originally published at herald mail media.

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