Springfield is looking for input on its plan to spend nearly $800,000 from the federal aid package approved in March for coronavirus relief efforts.
The draft plan outlines five priorities – rental assistance, grants to small businesses, support for the food bank, health and safety equipment, and funding for public services.
The city held its first public meeting Thursday via Zoom to listen to input from residents and businesses about fund distribution.
About half of the new funding - $400,000 - would go towards rental assistance. Income-eligible residents hurt by COVID-19 and the policies enacted to slow its spread could receive a maximum of $1,000 to pay their rent. Funds would automatically go to landlords or property managers on behalf of their renter.
Marcia Dean said Lake Victoria Village – a low-income community – has been overlooked.
“There've been other communities where that has been food drives, and other give-aways, and I’m very happy for them, but I think that we need those kinds of services in that area,” Dean said during the virtual public meeting.
Dean said the new owners raised the rent, and tenants who live there already had a hard time paying rent before the pandemic.
Under the draft plan, 40 businesses could receive a forgivable loan of up to $5,000, and 100 more businesses through a low-interest loan program. The new funding earmarked for businesses is $200,000, plus $325,000 that was in an existing economic development program.
Donna Hillyer said her business - Petersburg Power Washing- has been open for 14 years, and has never taken a hit like this.
“I would hate to see us not recover well from this, and then have employees that depend on us to feed their families, lose their jobs, and be out of work,” Hillyer said. “It would just be a burden on my shoulders.”
The federal money would also provide $100,000 for food pantry assistance, with a goal of providing between 100,000 and 130,000 meals.
Medical supplies and respiratory kits are also a part of the plan. The city would spend $50,000 for COVID-19 respiratory kits. A portion would be available to the general public, and the remaining kits would be given to the more vulnerable population, including the homeless and the elderly.
The remaining roughly $50,000 would support other public programs and facilities, according to the draft plan.
Val Yazell, Springfield’s economic development director, said the city will ensure the need of food banks will be met.
“As we see unemployment skyrocketing if you will – the need for the food bank is going to grow,” Yazell said.
She said city officials want to make sure they’re not missing needs created by the coronavirus pandemic and its response. The funding must be used to help people with low to moderate incomes and follow other rules for the Community Development Block Grant Program, the federal program Congress funneled the money through for cities and states.
The city needs to get feedback from the public, then send a final plan to the feds for approval before it will get the money. City officials expect funds to be available by June 30.
The next public meeting is May 14 at 5 p.m. Residents and businesses can register for the meeting and send input via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.