Hyattsville City Council continues to look for ways to spend its $1 million local pandemic relief fund. During discussion at its April 22, 2020, meeting City Council members discussed in broad strokes possible ways the money could be spent, including donations to local charities already dealing with the aftermath of coronavirus’ disruptions, and programs for business aid.
Mayor Candace Hollingsworth, lead sponsor of the city relief fund measures so far, pushed City Council members to think realistically about how the fund could best be used to provide direct relief to individuals. Additionally, she said Hyattsville economic development officials were crafting ways they could expand existing city business grant programs with some of the relief funding.
Hollingsworth noted a city-funded program to provide about 75 grocery gift cards to Hyattsville residents attracted more than 650 applicants, of which only 88 turned out to be city residents. The deluge of applicants, and the work needed to verify their city residency, proved challenging for city staff to manage. With that in mind, Hollingsworth said it might be more effective for some of the money to go to local charities already working with communities suffering from the medical and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m thinking it will be good for us to consider maybe making a contribute to CASA’s Solidarity Fund, since they already have direct connections, earmarked for Hyattsville residents,” said Hollingsworth. “Perhaps a contribution to the Employ Prince George’s fund, again earmarked for Hyattsville residents…perhaps contributions to the community health service centers in our area.”
Ward Two Councilor Danny Schaible had similar thoughts.
“We already have a lot of programs that provide services for needy residents and I think as part of this effort i’d like to reach out to those providers and see what their demand has been since the pandemic took hold,” said Schaible during the meeting.
Ward Four Councilor Daniel Peabody pushed for a more concrete assessment of community needs before creating plans for the funds.
“How do we define the need in the city?” Asked Peabody.
Fellow Ward Four Councilor Edouard Haba said he’d like the funds to be used in some way to address the needs of gig-economy workers, independent contractors and undocumented workers who may fall through the cracks of the stimulus packages being crafted at the federal and state level.
“They don’t receive a W-2 or they are not included in some of this relief, and I would like to see a way we could find, as a city, to take into account those residents,” said Haba.
Other City Council members said they wanted to hear more ideas from the community, including Ward Five’s representatives Joseph Solomon and Erica Spell Wolf who are hosting an upcoming virtual town hall with ward residents.
City Council took no further action on the matter. Discussion and possible action is expected at Hyattsville’s May 4 City Council meeting.
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