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Thursday, August 13, 2020

Santa Maria’s CDBG funds increase with COVID-19 allocation

Posted By on Thu, Aug 13, 2020 at 8:55 AM

A few days after an Aug. 3 Block Grants Advisory Committee public workshop—where attendees discussed Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) priorities for the 2021-22 Action Plan—Santa Maria announced that the city received nearly $1 million in extra CDBG funds for the current 2019-20 cycle.

The added funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development “must be used to prevent, prepare, or respond to coronavirus,” city Grants Specialist Alicia Vela said.

While Vela said that Santa Maria first found out about the funds in March, the city’s special projects office has just now finalized its proposal for how the extra money should be distributed.

According to a city press release, $325,000 is proposed for public services and emergency rental assistance, $500,000 for capital and public facilities improvements, and $133,272 for general administration.

The proposed amendment states that the emergency rental assistance allocation “will allow dozens of local residents to stay in their homes by paying for up to three months’ rent for those Santa Maria households that can prove that they were financially impacted by COVID-19.” The public facilities money would go toward “improvements to public entrances and counters at city buildings to ensure social distancing and reduce the spread of germs and viruses.” Finally, the general administration funds would cover the administrative costs associated with achieving all of the above.

Santa Maria City Council will vote on the allocation on Aug. 18. If passed, the amendment would not change any existing CDBG allocations that the council already approved. It would simply increase the allocations for the aforementioned areas.

The city is encouraging citizen participation in the process with a public review comment period that runs from Aug. 13 to 18. Public comments must be submitted by 3 p.m. on Aug. 18, the day of the City Council meeting.

Meanwhile, Santa Maria is also solidifying its priorities for its next round of CDBG funding, 2021-22.

The Block Grants Advisory Committee's Aug. 3 workshop aimed to gauge community needs and present its proposed priorities, which the committee voted to approve with some small changes around how the priorities are numbered.

Those priorities are made clear to organizations as they apply for CDBG funds, Community Programs Manager Rosie Rojo explained during the workshop, and thus guide the types of applications the city typically receives.

“These are priorities that not only served to assist our Block Grants Advisory Committee and our City Council in making decisions about how to allocate funding for this fiscal year that we’re in, but also these were adopted for the upcoming five years,” Rojo said.

The top two priorities, which typically are more likely to be funded, are to “prevent homelessness, address critical needs, and assist at-risk youth, seniors, and underserved populations” and “expand educational and youth development opportunities.” The third and fourth priorities are to “provide affordable housing” and “revitalize existing neighborhoods.”

The city’s notice of funding availability for 2020-21 states that top preference will be given “to public service agencies that provide food, shelter, clothing or safety on an emergency basis to Santa Maria City residents,” as well as “those programs that prevent juvenile delinquency and divert at-risk youth from gang involvement, crime, substance abuse, family violence, school problems, and out-of-control behavior.”

The Block Grants Advisory Committee will present the 2021-22 priorities to City Council on Aug. 18, in addition to the proposed allocation for COVID-19-specific funds available for 2019-20. ∆

—Malea Martin
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