Action Alert: Help Redirect Funds to Community Members in Need
by Eddy Morales, on 12/10/20 4:30 PM
Update (December 16th, 2020):
On December 15th, Gresham City Council voted to make key changes to community development and COVID-19 relief budgets because the community raised its voice and advocated for more funding to the people that urgently need it. Thank you to everyone who shared their powerful testimonies with the council, and congratulations on two important wins.
First, $150,000 that was set aside for a prepayment on the Children’s Fountain will now be used to meet critical needs: $50,000 for low-income meal assistance and $100,000 for emergency income assistance, which includes rental assistance.
Second, $450,000 previously restricted to water utility assistance, is now available for more forms of utility assistance, enabling the city to help more of our impacted communities pay vital bills during this time.
The City of Gresham receives funding from the federal government through Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and City Council decides how to use this money. The funds can be used in a variety of ways, and are intended to primarily benefit low income residents, such as by providing housing, jobs and public services that meet urgent community development needs.
In addition to an annual sum of CDBG funding Gresham receives (which is $1,269,853 this year), the City has been granted over $1.3 million through the CARES Act. In this time when far too many people in our community are unable to pay their bills and meet urgent needs, the City of Gresham has the responsibility to use CDBG funding to serve Gresham’s most at risk populations. However, the recommended budget the City is set to adopt at the City Council meeting on December 15th fails to direct sufficient resources to our low-income residents.
Of the $1.3 million in CDBG Coronavirus funding, only $50,000 is allocated for low-income meal assistance and $108,000 for rental assistance. The greatest sum of money is set aside for utility assistance on water ($450,000) and waste and recycling ($130,000). As only landlords and homeowners directly pay water and waste bills, many renters in our city will not benefit from this.
A second key issue with the current budget is that a total of $230,000 goes to pay off loans for the Children’s Fountain, $150,000 of which is a prepayment for loans that do not need to be paid this year. The City has used CDBG funding to cover the costs of the Children’s Fountain by claiming it eliminates blight. Any year, this is a questionable use of funds intended to improve living conditions and opportunities for low income residents. In 2020, this is unacceptable and the $150,000 on a prepayment must go to meet critical needs in our community.
Another $125,000 is allocated for RV towing and clearing encampments. We need to use CDBG funds to support the houseless population, such as by working to increase shelter capacity, not create more hardship.
How to Take Action
I’m asking you to take action with me by testifying at our next City Council meeting, demanding that we increase the amount of CDBG funding that goes directly to the people that need it, whether through an increase in rental assistance, food, childcare, or utility assistance that actually benefits low-income residents.
The City Council meeting is held virtually at 10am on December 15th, and in order to speak you need to register by emailing Susanjoy.Wright@GreshamOregon.gov before 10am on December 14th, stating your name, e-mail address, phone number and that you would like to provide testimony about CDBG funding. If you are interested in speaking or have questions about providing testimony, please let us by filling out this form and an organizer will reach out.
If you are not able to make it to the meeting or do not feel comfortable speaking, you can also send Susanjoy.Wright@GreshamOregon.gov written testimony by 10am on December 14th.
In addition to providing testimony at the meeting, I encourage you to email your Mayor and City Councilors to share how you believe our City should allocate CDBG funding. If you click this link, an email will pop up with their addresses already written in.