The Milpitas City Council voted last Tuesday to shift federal funds traditionally used for infrastructure, affordable housing, and anti-poverty programs, among other things, to help aid Milpitians with coronavirus-related housing and community expenses.
The federal funds, sourced from the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, are administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). CDBG, one of HUD’s largest and oldest grant programs, was established to help local communities to provide low-income housing and fight blight. HUD allows state and local governments to use funds at their discretion, so long as the funds satisfy HUD’s use requirements.
In April, the city received approximately $398,000 from HUD as part of the federal government’s $2 trillion coronavirus-related stimulus package. That brought the city’s total CDBG funds to approximately $1.3 million. Milpitas, like many other jurisdictions across the country, has had to pivot from their planned expenditures and focus almost entirely on COVID-19-related funding.
HUD has responded by allowing CDBG funds to be used for causes that “prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus,” and has eliminated some requirements to ensure that funds get to local communities faster.
“In the 2020-21 financial year, [city] staff anticipates spending more time administering the CDBG program than in past years,” read a city staff report on the item. “This additional time is needed to respond to COVID-19 needs, to understand new compliance rules and flexibilities, and to design new programs such as the small business loan program.”
City staff and their nonprofit partners requested a large part of funds be allocated directly to the city’s rent relief program. The rent relief program, established earlier this year, provides rent assistance for low-to-moderate income individuals or families with dependent children under 18, seniors over 55, victims of domestic violence, emancipated foster youth between the ages of 18 and 24, and subsidized housing tenants. The program also assists with emergency hardship relief, eviction prevention, domestic violence relocation, child and family homelessness, and assistance with Section 8 housing.
Other applicants for city funds include the Milpitas Senior Center, the Milpitas Unified School District, the Milpitas Food Pantry, and housing-advocacy nonprofits and homeless housing solutions, along with a $200,000 proposal for a roof replacement project in the Sunnyhills neighborhood.
“We would like to make sure we’re at the table over the next year, and hopefully in future years, to work with you and establish funding priorities around housing and homelessness,” said Deanne Everton, a representative from Rebuilding Together, a housing nonprofit that has advocated for the Sunnyhills project. “These repairs become even more critical as the homeowners we serve are the most vulnerable for COVID-19, and they will shelter-in-place for the foreseeable future,” Everton said of the Sunnyhills neighborhood.
Exact allocations and a timeline for funds to be distributed will be decided at a later date.