UPDATED, April 16: Federal and local funds aimed at mid- and low-income Arlington residents as well as needy businesses totaling more than $1.2 million drew recommendations Wednesday, April 15.
In a remote meeting via Zoom Wednesday, April 15, members of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) subcommittee voted unanimously to recommend to the Select Board that $659,903 in federal money be allocated as follows to address the Covid-19 crisis, which has closed businesses and has seen many employees laid off:
- Business assistance: $200,000;
- Rental assistance: $400,000; and
- Public services: $59,903.
The subcommittee also voted to recommend to allocate to CDBG programs $150,000 after cancellation of the Housing Corporation of Arlington’s solar project at the Capital Square Apartments on Mass. Ave., East Arlington. Pam Hallett, HCA executive director, said the nonprofit has been unable to negotiate a satisfactory contract for the panels. In the light of the pandemic, Hallett requested the funds be reallocated, with $50,000 to the existing capital-improvement program and $100,000 toward rental assistance through its Homelessness Prevention Program.
$457,437 from previous years
In a third recommendation, the panel supported adding $457,437 in CDBG funds accumulated from previous years. Excluded from that is the $60,000 reprogrammed for the upcoming federal fiscal 2020. The money is to be allocated for the fit out project for Arlington EATS ($332,437) and the annual curb-ramp program ($125,000) by the town Department of Public Works.
Arlington EATS had requested $400,000 of CDBG funds, which the subcommittee did not recommend funding earlier this year. The town planning department is waiting for a decision from HUD regarding the project and would like to reserve some of the older funds to potentially fund Arlington EATS, Erin Zwirko of the planning office wrote in an April 13 memo. Historically, CDBG funds have been allocated to the DPW’s annual curb ramp installation program. Unfortunately, an application was not received for funding for the upcoming program year, but DPW would have requested $125,000 of CDBG funds.
To reprogram these funds, Zwirko wrote, planning would have to undertake a substantial amendment of the 2020-2024 Consolidated Plan and the 2020-2021 Annual Action Plan. The town has nearly completed the approval process required with the annual plan to be presented to the Select Board this month. Following that approval, these documents are due to HUD on May 15.
Because HUD has not granted a waiver to reprogram funds from previous program years, the town must follow the required 30-day comment period. Planning would undertake a substantial amendment in late May or early June to reprogram these funds.
Asked about the amount of funds that the town expected under the federal program, Zwirko wrote:
"On April 3, we learned that the CDBG-CV allocation would be about half of the allocation ($1,099,358) that we received for the current year (July 1, 2019 - June 30, 2020). We received a letter from HUD that the amount would be $659,903 on April 9 via email.
"We are thrilled to receive these funds in addition to our yearly entitlement. We look forward to completing the regulatory process so that we can program these funds for use in addressing the pandemic in Arlington as soon as possible."
To return to $659,903 to be provided under the CARES Act, adopted last month, here are some specific from Zwirko's memo.
For business assistance, the staff has designed a program that would grant up to $10,000 per business to support microenterprises, which are small businesses of up to five employees including the owner who makes a low- to moderate-income. With such grants, the town's proposed allocation could support at least 20 businesses.
This program differs from workforce development planned for federal fiscal '20, which would support job training for five new low- to moderate-income employees at a local employer.
For rental assistance, CDBG regulations limit assistance for up to three months. Using an amount of $4,000 per month, the program could grant up to $12,000 per low- to moderate-income household. That would be able to support at least 33 households, but note that we might be able to support more households if actual rental amounts are lower than $4,000 per month.
That figure drew comment from subcommittee members Diane Mahon and Dan Dunn, who thought the $4,000 too high and suggested $2,000 to $3,000.
After funding a business and rental assistance, the balance remaining is $59,903. The CARES Act lifts the public-service cap, so the memo suggested that the CDBG subcommittee might consider funding local public-service agencies that are providing support to those affected by the pandemic. Examples are support service related to basic needs, other than housing, including other household expenses, food security, mental health counseling, child care, transportation and senior support.
Under the CARES Act, the comment period on proposals is no less than five days.
Encouraged by Select Board member Dunn, Planning Director Jenny Raitt made clear there would be further opportunities for the pubic to comment. The recommendations may be on the next Select Board meeting agenda, which could be April 27.
Participation at the meeting ranged from nine to 16 people.
This news summary was published Wednesday, April 15, 2020, and updated April 16, to add quote from Zwirko.