MONCKS CORNER — Access to medical services, healthy foods and broadband internet are among the pressing needs for low- to moderate-income households in Berkeley County, the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments said in a recent report.

The tri-county organization presented a draft of the Community Needs Assessment to the Berkeley County Council on Feb. 22 to get feedback from the County Council and the public on the report.

Community Needs Assessments are required to be completed annually to apply for Community Development Block Grant funding from the S.C. Department of Commerce.

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The purpose of the assessments is to identify specific needs and potential projects for which funding will be sought in the coming year. To qualify for the funding, the projects must benefit low- to moderate-income households.

Projects can be in one of five categories: Community Infrastructure, Community Enrichment, Neighborhood Revitalization, Special Projects and Ready to Go. Applications are accepted twice a year.

“We’ve been hearing a lot from the Berkeley County community,” said Kathryn Basha, planning director for the Council of Governments. “We’re hoping to hear more from the public in the coming days and weeks. Hopefully, they will be able to look at the report and come back to us and say, ‘This is something that we need’ so we can includes those potential projects, as well.”

The need for medical services, healthy food and broadband internet for low- to moderate-income households is nothing new to Berkeley County. The COVID-19 pandemic has only magnified the issues, Basha said.

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“Access to medical facilities in rural Berkeley County for testing and vaccines is going to be crucial in the coming months,” Basha said. “People living out in rural parts of the county like Alvin have to travel so far for medical services. There also needs to be better distribution and coordination with the county’s food bank partners. There are not a lot of grocery stores in rural parts of the county. Internet access is an issue. These are the issues that we looked at in our assessment.”

Basha said several projects in Berkeley County could get funding from the CARES Act. There is about $425,000 available through the CARES Act for Dorchester and Berkeley counties for COVID-19 related issues.

“The money has already been allocated, now it’s a matter of matching up specific projects for those COVID-related needs,” Basha said.

Funding from these grants can be crucial to an organization like Second Chance Ministry Community Outreach, which provides educational, mentoring and vocational training for teens and young adults in Berkeley County.

“We’re trying to help as many young people as we can from those underserved communities,” said Katrena White, president of the community outreach. “These grants are a lifeline for organizations like ours.”

Basha said grant applications will be sent out in the next two weeks for approval by the state. Approval for projects are expected to be awarded in July.

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Reach Andrew Miller at 843-937-5599. Follow him on Twitter @APMILLER_PandC

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