When the extent of the pandemic began to become clear, I called for several key budgetary steps to address the health, housing and economic impacts of the Coronavirus. First, allocate funds quickly to help residents and businesses affected by COVID. Then, for this year’s budget, not only earmark funds for COVID aid, but put “on hold” additional budget dollars to give us flexibility to respond as further needs connected to the virus emerge. I’m pleased the Council took steps along those lines by creating a $640,000 COVID fund, and putting on hold another $1.3 million. City staff has begun providing aid to residents and businesses in Takoma Park using the COVID fund. Our future actions will depend in part on whether the moratorium on evictions is extended, and on funding amounts from the Federal, State and County governments. Our goal should be to fill gaps those other sources don’t cover. I’ve also made the point that we shouldn’t feel limited to the initial $640,000 -- if there are additional needs, the money is available in the “on hold” fund, and we shouldn’t be shy about using it.
- City Budget -- In Council budget work in May I argued and voted for the creation of the COVID fund. I also proposed the amendment approved by the Council to place on hold for potential COVID response an additional $950,000 otherwise allocated for sidewalk repair. I also voted for a separate successful amendment to add another $300,000 to the hold list. Other “hold” amendments I offered or supported totaling another $1.3 million didn’t gain Council approval.
- Use of COVID Funds -- the funds are being used to help businesses and residents, including emergency rent assistance and help with prescriptions, food aid, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); plus mini-grants and healthy business grants to local businesses, with future plans focused on expanded help to renters, small landlords, condo owners, and residents with non-federally backed mortgages. I’m urging City staff to keep the Council updated on outstanding needs, in the housing and business spheres, and to tell us if needs outstrip available financial resources so we can tap into the money that’s on hold.
- Working with Other Levels of Government -- With future targeting of City funds partly dependent on actions by other levels of government, I’ve joined with my Council colleagues in lobbying for aid packages to include more direct financial assistance to municipal governments.
- Advisory Committee for COVID funds -- I’ve suggested the creation of a diverse committee of residents to advise the City on the use of COVID funds, and I continue to believe that would be a helpful addition to our effort.
- Helping Residents and Businesses -- I’ve assisted a number of residents and business owners who have sought help with COVID needs, particularly relating to testing and PPE.