After hearing from three partner organizations that have been working to distribute $450,000 in federal CARES Act money to Edmonds residents in need, the Edmonds City Council took a step closer Tuesday night to authorizing the distribution of more than one grant per household, depending on both ongoing need and demand from new applicants.
The council considered the proposal during its Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday night, and voted 6-1 to place on next week’s consent agenda an amendment to the original ordinance that created the Edmonds Cares Fund.
Under the fund, which was approved by the council in June, up to $1,000 is available to households of up to two members and up to $1,500 to households of three or more members who meet the income criteria. Applications may be submitted through https://wellspringfs.org/edmonds
The city so far has made two rounds of grant awards to Edmonds residents — one in July and one in August. Under the federal parameters of the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, the money must be distributed by November to those in need, said Patrick Doherty, the city’s Community Services and Economic Development Director.
The city has contracted with three agencies to distribute the funds: Wellspring Family Services, Washington Kids in Transition and Homage. Individuals and/or households are eligible if they earn no more than 60 percent of the Snohomish County Median Income and are in need of assistance with housing and/or household expenses, which includes food, medical care, car repair, rent, and mortgages.
The only councilmember voting against the idea of allowing applicants to receive more than one grant was Kristiana Johnson, who argued that the city needs to do a better job of reaching out to existing residents who have not yet received grant money rather than give additional money to those who have already received it. Johnson advocated that the city print a postcard in several languages and mail it to all residents to ensure more were aware of the grant money.
Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas also expressed concerns about the outreach efforts, noting that much of the money so far has gone to families and asking that more be done to notify other groups in need, such as veterans and those with disabilities.
Doherty — along with three representatives speaking to the council on behalf of the partner agencies — pledged to conduct even more outreach to ensure people are aware of the program. However, Doherty noted that the city has so far distributed 143 grants for a total of $156,788, leaving almost $300,000 to be distributed. He also told the council that the number of applications decreased in August.
“We certainly don’t want to leave any money on the table,” Doherty said.
Kim Gorney, Executive Director of Washington Kids in Transition, said she has so far distributed grants to 65 families with children in the Edmonds School District. Unfortunately, she said, “every one of those families are still in the same (financial) position they have been since March or April.” Gorney also predicted the request for grant dollars is likely to increase as students begin classes this fall and school social workers become more aware of families’ needs
John Grant of Wellspring Family Services — which has provided 61 households with Edmonds Cares Fund grants so far –agreed that there is tremendous need among those who need help with “multiple months of rent.”
Shelly Brown of senior services organization Homage, which recently came on board to help distribute Edmonds Cares funding, said Homage has provided 17 households with grants so far, but anticipates serving close to 50 households — 70 percent of them seniors.
Under the amendment referred to next week’s consent agenda, new applicants would have priority over those applying for additional funds. The amendment states that “more than one grant per household over the program period may be authorized, based on an analysis of on-going need and consideration of other new applications.”
In other businesses, the council heard a detailed presentation from a design team working on a feasibility study for a regional stormwater facility in the Lake Ballinger area. The preferred location would be a 5,680-square-foot portion of Mathay Ballinger Park between the existing play area and the Interurban Trail, with the goal of maintaining existing park amenities. The aim of the project would be to provide stormwater treatment for the 140-acre watershed basin that drains into Lake Ballinger, which has ongoing water quality issues due to stormwater runoff.
The total cost of the project is estimated at between $3 million and $5 million, with the majority of the money coming from state grant funding. Noting that the current project scope includes public outreach to the surrounding community, Councilmember Vivian Olson asked the consultants engage citizens before any grant applications are made. Full design could begin in mid-2021 or early 2022 depending on budget availability.
The council also:
– Heard a report on the Countywide Buildable Lands Program, a review process is carried out through Snohomish County Tomorrow, and an update on Vision 2050, prepared by the Puget Sound Regional Council.
– Received an update from Acting City Finance Director Dave Turley regarding the city’s July 2020 financial report. Sales tax revenues “continue to come in pretty well,” Turley said, adding the year-to-date budget compared to actuals is 95%. “We’re cautiously optimistic that things are going to continue to go well,” he said.
The city anticipates collecting 100% of its property taxes, which make up 20% of the city’s general fund, he said.
Sales tax collection is about $300,000 behind the same time last year. “Car sales, construction and restaurants have declined from last year,” Turley said, although miscellaneous and wholesale retail from businesses services have increased. Asked by Councilmember Diane Buckshnis whether the city was seeing any uptick in restaurant sales tax revenue due to the Walkable Main Street closures that allow restaurants to expand onto the street, Turley said that there appears to be a positive impact. “We’re not as far behind as we were a few months ago,” he said. “I think the increased sales at the restaurants are coming through and showing up.”
“We really do believe the expenditure cuts we’ve made over the last few months will actually be able to make up for the revenue losses we are going to have from COVID,” he said.
At the end of the meeting, Mayor Mike Nelson provided an update on the city’s hiring process for two open director positions: The police chief position was posted Aug. 18, with a review of candidates to begin Sept. 18, while the finance director job was posted Aug. 25, with a review of candidates set for Sept. 25.
— By Teresa Wippel