The Newburgh City Council approved an amendment to the Community Development Block Grant [CDBG] program last Monday during a special meeting.
The citizen participation plan of the CDBG was amended to allow the city to take on public participation processes such as virtual meetings, observation, and email comments in times of emergency.
The council then passed a resolution to accept CARES Act funds into the substantial amendment to the CDBG 2019 fiscal year annual action plan.
Of the funding, $413,000 will be used to provide rental assistance for those directly impacted by COVID-19 crisis. The city plans to pay the rental balance of the months that one has lost income due to the crisis.
A portion of the funding will also be used for emergency food distribution, and then small administrative costs associated with the funding.
Councilwoman Karen Mejia asked about whether or not some of the funding could be used for legal representation for housing issues.
“We are going to put out an RFP [request for proposal] for the implementation of this money,” said Alexandra Church, the city’s director of planning and development in response. “We do believe that one of the respondents will be Legal Services [of the Hudson Valley.] But beyond that, we are going to keep this specific CARES money for the rental assistance payments.”
Church said that the city also receives money from its RISE Grant funding.
“So we are joining them. Although we are voting on one specific action, this is part of a larger plan,” said Church. “We will also be in absolute parallel with this, providing legal services, legal representation in housing court with that city’s RISE money.”
Church said the city believes that Legal Services will be responsive to the RFP.
“If they do not win though, they will also be supplemented with that city’s RISE money,” said Church. “So we’ve adjusted that city’s RISE budget due to some changes due to COVID.”
“I just want to ensure that once the moratorium on evictions, not on paying rent, but on evictions is lifted, that our residents can have some legal representation,” said Councilman Anthony Grice. “So that’s my concern.”
Church said money for legal representation will be available once you go to court. She said that all residents will be able to access all housing resources. She also spoke about the state’s CARES funding.
The New York Department of Homes and Community Renewal [DHCR] administers the state’s CARES funding. The state’s CARES funding is similar to Newburgh’s CARES funding.
It is still unknown if entitlement communities, like Newburgh, that receive their own direct CDBG money, will be able to access the state’s CARES funding.
“If Newburgh residents are allowed to access the money,” said Church. “Great, we will have additional money in the pot.”
Church said the city is partnering with the Orange County Department of Social Services [DSS] and is going to access some of the DSS’s emergency funding for housing issues. They will go down the list of residents with housing needs, and check off which housing resources they qualify for.
“We hope to reach as many residents as possible this way,” said Church. The RISE grant money is currently accessible, even without the CARES grant money.
The council also passed a resolution for the city manager to apply for FEMA’s public assistance COVID-19 funding program grant in the amount of $200 thousand with a 25 percent city match. The application will be expedited.
The grant will cover any type of COVID related expense that the city is eligible for. Expenses include overtime, personal protection equipment, and more.
“I think as a city, we’ve done a great job keeping track of those covid related expenses. So my hats off to everyone who had a hand in that as well,” said Grice.