Mahoning Commissioners Declare Emergency, Hear Demand Up at Food Banks

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Mahoning County Commissioners this morning voted to enact an emergency declaration to address the COVID-19 outbreak and heard how the pandemic is affecting food banks and first responders.

The declaration authorizes the county to take any actions permitted under law to continue operations during the national emergency, protect the public from the spread of the virus and comply with additional directives from state and federal governments. 

It also authorizes amendments to the county personnel manual to add provisions dealing with time, attendance and health benefits related to the emergency, said Audrey Tillis, executive director for the commissioners.

“These are trying times,” Commissioner Anthony Traficanti acknowledged. 

During the sparsely attended meeting – about a dozen people attended, including the three commissioners and reporters – the board heard from Michael Iberis, executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank. 

Orders for food from the pantries Second Harvest serves were up 21% as of Tuesday, a spike Iberis attributed to an influx of restaurant and retail employees displaced because their workplaces closed during the outbreak.  

“I don’t have to tell anybody in this room that we have an epidemic on our hands. We have a crisis,” he said. “Everybody knows somebody who’s struggling.” 

Next week, 20 members of the Ohio National Guard will provide assistance at Second Harvest, Iberis said. Representatives of Ohio’s 12 food banks requested the guard’s assistance from Gov. Mike DeWine. Nearly 400 troops will be deployed at the food banks statewide. The troops will pack boxes, distribute and pick up food and sanitize the food bank warehouse.

Overall, the community has been supportive. The food bank receives dozens of calls each day from people interested in making monetary or in-kind contributions or volunteering, he reported.  

County recorder Noralynn Palermo told commissioners that her office had instituted a new policy of permitting just two members of the public inside at a time. Visitors also are required to stand behind a white tape line on the floor in front of the service counter. 

And commissioners heard from Dennis O’Hara, director of the Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency, regarding Wednesday’s limited activation of the county’s emergency operations center and the initiative launched to receive donations of personal protective equipment.

“Our first responders are not able to replenish their supplies,” O’Hara said. “Everybody is out of supplies right now, but our first responders, they are on the front lines.” 

Pictured: At a sparsely attended meeting, the Mahoning County Commissioners enacted an emergency declaration.

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