City Council extends application deadline for COVID-19 funds

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 6, 2020

By Liz Moomey

SALISBURY — The Salisbury City Council on Tuesday pushed back the deadline for coronavirus-focused Community Development Block Grant fund applications to May 22.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump allocated $168,950 in funding to Salisbury. Those funds will in turn be distributed to local organizations serving residents affected by the pandemic.

The previous deadline for applications was Friday.

Both Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins and Councilman David Post raised concerns about the amount of public knowledge on the available funds and the approaching deadline.

Post said he spoke with someone who was an appropriate applicant but was not aware of the funding opportunity.

Heggins said she thought the Friday deadline was too soon and inquired about how the city was adversing the application.

Candace Edwards, a city housing planner, said she had been in contact with community service providers. And Edwards said she has already received an application. She said applicants don’t need much time because they should know what their needs are.

“They are providing services to those families that are being hit the hardest, so they know what their immediate needs are, which exactly what we want to address,” Edwards said. “I believe there is enough time.”

Heggins asked about reaching out to nontraditional nonprofits.

“We have a lot of organizations out here that are doing tremendous work that are 501(c)3s,” she said. “They fly under the radar and they need time to hear about this information and get their application to have the same opportunity our traditional organizations have.”

City Planning Director Hannah Jacobson said the funding doesn’t all have to be immediately allocated to nonprofits, but the city needs to designate what portion of the money should go to what sector. That could include public service, administration and housing activities.

“We want to be able to get money to the people who need it now as kind of an emergency relief, but we also recognize the crisis will evolve and we might want to be able to reserve some funds for the next wave when it’s going to hit,” Jacobson said. “There’s nothing that obligates us to distribute every last dollar and earmark it to particular organizations at this point.”

Jacobson said it was possible for the deadline to be extended if the council didn’t feel there wasn’t urgency to allocate the funds quickly.

“I don’t want you to hear there is not urgency, but I do want you to hear we need to make sure there is enough fairness and access for people to be able to apply for this money and to have a better understanding of what’s going on in our community,” Heggins replied.

Post said he doesn’t think extending the deadline by two weeks will make a difference to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees the CDBG funding. He said the city should be very wise about where the funding goes.

At the Tuesday meeting, city council held a public hearing to hear from citizens on how the grant should be used.

Comments were submitted to Edwards, which she read aloud.

Krista Woolly, executive director of the Community Care Clinic, wrote that the facility has remained open during the pandemic to new and existing patients. Workers are beginning to plan to safely return to treating patients face-to-face, since dental visits have been suspended. The clinic has provided telehealth visits and medications through its drive up pharmacy.

“The clinic respectfully requests CDBG COVID-19 funding to support the next six to eight months of operations specially designated to accommodate an increase number of people who fund themselves uninsured and to potentially support a second, part-time provider in light of a decreased volunteer pool,” Woolly stated.

The clinic will reopen in mid-May to patients for emergencies only.

Rocky Cabagnot wrote the grant should be used for direct emergency rental assistance on behalf of tenants.

Cindy Fink, the executive director of Meals of Wheels, wrote the organization is “seeing the need for home-delivered meals for seniors who cannot or should not leave their homes, the need for purchased and delivered groceries for adults who are at high risk for infection.”

Kyna Grubb, executive director of Rowan Helping Ministries, wrote the agency has added 217 new households as crisis assistance clients since March 1. Expenses have increased by serving more clients, expanding services, using more protective equipment and clearing supply while compensating for decrease in volunteer participation by adding staff.

Grubb said she expects to be flooded with requests for rent and utility assistance to help citizens pay their bills and remain in their homes in the future.

With the deadline pushed back, the council will receive a presentation with requests for approval of an outline or goal of how the funding should be used at its June 2 meeting.

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