SIERRA VISTA — A second round of federal funding for the city aimed at helping to offset the hard hitting effects of COVID-19 could end up going to Sierra Vista’s most vulnerable citizens, officials said.
It’s the second time this year that Sierra Vista receives the money, which comes from U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump on March 27, 2020. The money is for helping workers, families, small businesses and also to preserve jobs for industries.
This time Sierra Vista will get $239,351, according to a letter from HUD on Sept. 11, city documents show. At the City Council’s work session on Tuesday, council members talked about the best way to allocate the money and it looks like it could all be going to the United Way Emergency Crisis Fund.
Anthony Reed, executive director of the United Way of Sierra Vista and Cochise County, Inc., gave council members a presentation showing how the first round of federal dollars provided through the CARES Act, has been spent thus far, and how it would be distributed if the City Council decides to allocate the entire amount.
City documents show that more than 50 percent of the first installment of CARES Act funds has gone to landlords who haven’t received rent from tenants who have been out of work.
“There are people who have not paid their rent since March,” Reed said. He explained that the money goes directly to the landlords and not the tenants.
The second largest expenditure for the Emergency Crisis Fund has been food, followed by utilities, administrative fees, hotel/motel vouchers for the homeless, employment services and mental health services, city documents show. So far, the funds have helped 329 families, or, 938 people.
In the proposal for the second round of CARES Act funds, only 41.8 percent would be used for rents, while 19.8 percent would go toward utilities. Food dropped to 6.3 percent, while COVID-19 assistance to Good neighbor Alliance represents 10.4 percent. Assistance to the homeless by way of vouchers will take 4.2 percent. The money is disbursed through St. Vincent De Paul Society, Sierra Vista Dream Center, Lisa Lopez Resume Writing Workshops, Hughes Counseling Services and Good neighbor Alliance.
Reed said the homeless population in Sierra Vista is larger.
“There’s more people who are homeless now than I’ve seen at any other time,” said Reed, a 20-year resident of the city.
The first round of funding to Sierra Vista was announced in April when the city learned from HUD that it would be receiving $159,897 under the CARES Act. At a City Council work session on April 24, council members decided to give $120,000 of the CARES money to small business and the remainder, $39,897, for social services, or the United Way Emergency Crisis Fund.
At the time, council members said more of the CARES funds should go to small businesses so that owners could rehire employees who lost their jobs with the spread of the virus.
When the deadline closed for small businesses to apply for emergency grants on June 29, the city executed grant agreements with 11 micro/small entities, providing a total of $86,050 in federal funding to those businesses, city documents show. The $33,950 left over for the small businesses, then went to the United Way Emergency Crisis Fund, for a total of $73,847, city documents show.
Sierra Vista’s Community Development Director Matt McLachlan told councilmembers that if they agreed to give all the CARES Act funds to the United Way Emergency Crisis Fund, it would be advertised so that the public can weigh in on the issue.
Mayor Rick Mueller praised Reed’s presentation and said, “The United Way has done a great job in our community for a number of years.”
Reed told the panel he was grateful for being able to talk about the needs in the city.
“This new grant is going to help many more people,” he said.
The City Council is expected to vote on the allocation of the CARES Act funds on Nov. 12.
In other action taken by the City Council at the regular meeting on Thursday, councilmembers approved the 2020 Title VI Nondiscrimination Plan for Vista Transit, as well as three grants from the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety for the Sierra Vista Police Department.