Senior Center, aquarium slated to receive federal funding under CARES Act

Riverhead Town’s Senior Center would receive $40,000 in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding, and the Long Island Aquarium would receive $20,000, according to recommendations put forward by the town Community Development Agency at last Thursday’s Town Board work session. 

A formal vote of the board is needed to make the allocations official. 

The recommendations would also provide $5,000 each for three other local organizations: East End Arts, Stop the Violence and Church of the Harvest, which had previously questioned how the town could allocate money to the aquarium over a food pantry.

The $75,000 total represents Riverhead’s share of a $2 trillion federal allocation for Round 3 of CARES Act funding, which is distributed to municipalities and agencies through a Suffolk County Consortium.

The town received $180,000 in Round 1 CARES Act funding, but nothing in Round 2. The CARES Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Unlike Rounds 1 and 2, Round 3 allows the town to use the money to help private entities, according to town community development director Dawn Thomas. 

“The Senior Center needs a walk-in cooler, which we felt was really important for them,” Ms. Thomas said. 

Councilman Frank Beyrodt said having refrigeration at the senior center is “key, especially under these emergency situations.”

Funding for part of the cost of a delivery bus for the center was also recommended.

The aquarium had to close its doors during the pandemic, “but unlike other businesses, they couldn’t shut down their business because they needed to take care of the animals,” Ms. Thomas said. 

“It frightened a lot of us to known that our downtown anchor was going to be moving their animals,” said Supervisor Yvette Aguiar. She said the animals would have been sent “anywhere that would take them, and in different locations.” 

The county eventually allowed the aquarium to open at 50%.

The aquarium would not be eligible for any federal funds under normal guidelines, “so this is a one-shot deal for them,” said assistant community development project supervisor Joe Maiorana.

It had originally requested $40,000 in funding, Ms. Thomas said.

East End Arts initially requested $25,000 and Church of the Harvest requested between $5,000 and $10,000. 

The church has a delivery component to their pantry, which Ms Thomas said is unique. They also received $10,000 from another town fund before requesting the Round 3 money, she said. 

Stop the Violence, which is working with Spirit’s Promise Equine Rescue, had asked only for the $5,000 the town recommended. 

The federal government doesn’t allow grants of less than $5,000, officials said.