After a four-plus-hour meeting that included numerous amendments to a plan that will guide City of Edmonds spending of $1.2 million in federal CARES Act funding, the Edmonds City Council decided Tuesday night to wait until next week to approve the final document.
“I think it will be best for us to come back next week and see a clean copy,” Councilmember Kristiana Johnson said in a statement that drew agreement from the group as the clock neared 11:30 p.m.
The council already faced a full docket, but due to the length of the CARES Act discussion, had to set most of the other agenda items aside for future meetings. Tuesday night’s meeting also marked the first evening of taking remote live public comment from citizens since the council moved to Zoom in March, and three Edmonds business owners were present to offer their opinions on how the CARES Act money should be used.
The CARES Act package presented to the council Tuesday night was a revised version based on suggestions made at last week’s Edmonds City Council meeting. Mayor Mike Nelson had initially called for $800,000 of the federal allocation to be distributed to Edmonds “storefront” businesses severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic — and the rest to reimburse the city for its coronavirus-related expenses.
The mayor’s revised proposal offered Tuesday night included less money ($700,000) for businesses and — in response to council feedback during the June 9 meeting — a new human services-focused program of $300,000 for housing and supplemental relief. And $265,100 was included to reimburse the city for unbudgeted COVID-19 costs.
In addition, the latest CARES proposal included reallocating to the housing relief fund up to $50,000 that was initially earmarked for a potential second round of funding for the Chamber Foundation WISH business grant program. This $350,000 in new money would be added to an earlier city council-created $100,000 housing and supplemental relief program, for a total of $450,000.
The CARES Act housing relief fund, which would help qualified Edmonds residents with rent or other emergency needs, was originally proposed to be distributed via grants of up to $1,000 for all applicant households. A council amendment by Laura Johnson Tuesday changed that amount to awards of up to $1,000 per family of two or fewer and $1,500 for families of three or more.
That amendment was one of many made by councilmembers Tuesday night. Others approved included the following:
– Use any leftover CARES Act funds (which must be accounted for by Oct. 31 of this year to ensure federal government reimbursement) to purchase personal protective equipment for city employees and community care centers, such as assisted living facilities.
– Delete the word “storefront” in describing businesses eligible for CARES Act funds, to broaden the pool of eligible businesses.
– Change the size of eligible businesses from those with two to 30 employees to those with 0 to 30 part- and full-time combined employees, which would encompass sole proprietors and also increase the number of eligible businesses.
– Prioritize allocating grant money to businesses that have either received no other federal or state grant money or received less grant money than they requested.
– Require monthly and annual reports that include details about the grant award process.
– Include an additional Snohomish County organization to administer the CARES Act grant allocations. This would be in addition to the two organizations — Snohomish County-based Washington Kids in Transition and King County-based Wellspring Family Services — that were selected to administer the council’s already-approved housing relief fund.
There were unsuccessful attempts by Councilmembers Vivian Olson and Kristiana Johnson to reallocate some of the human services funding back to small businesses, with the idea that residents were already benefiting from several other city-based grant programs approved in recent weeks. In addition, there was an attempt by Kristiana Johnson to reallocate the $125,000 remaining in the city’s Homelessness Response Fund to the housing fund, to replenish what was proposed to be shifted back to the small business grant fund. But that measure was opposed by councilmembers who said they wanted to keep that homelessness fund viable for possible future needs.
The majority of councilmembers were also generally opposed to the idea of moving money from the $300,000 in proposed CARES Act housing relief, especially since City Economic Development and Community Services Director Patrick Doherty noted that the city has already received a total of 94 grant applications for the earlier-established $100,000 housing relief fund.
In other action Tuesday night, the council approved a contract change order for up to $135,400 for the Dayton Street utility replacement project. The change involves a different reconstruction process for the area of 6th to 8th avenues to ensure longer pavement life and less maintenance.
Councilmembers also heard a brief presentation on bond funding costs to replace the city’s wastewater treatment plant incinerator, but a full discussion on that item was postponed to a future meeting due to the lateness of the hour. Also delayed was a presentation of the city’s newly created Community Services Resource Guide.
— By Teresa Wippel