Hyattsville City Council approved a coronavirus pandemic relief fund allocating $1 million from city funds to go to a mix of local nonprofits and city business grant programs. Measure passed 9-2 with councilors Joseph Solomon and Edouard Haba voting against during Hyattsville’s May 4, 2020, City Council meeting. If all goes according to plan, Hyattsville residents and businesses will be able to apply for emergency city relief funds by June 1, 2020.
The measure does several things:
- It provides a restricted donation of $300,000 to the Hyattsville Community Development Corp.’s Community Action Fund to provide cash assistance to city residents for rent and mortgage relief, utilities and other emergency exceptions.
- Provides a restricted $100,000 donation to Employ Prince George’s Hourly Worker Relief fund to provide cash assistance to city residents in Hyattsville, with a two-percent administrative fee.
- Provides a restricted $100,000 donation to CASA de Maryland’s Solidarity Fund for cash assistance city residents.
- It creates several emergency business relief grant programs, with grants of up to $10,000 per business, funded as follows:
- $175,000 for Hyattsville businesses with a single location and 75 or fewer workers.
- $175,000 for minority-, women, veteran-owned, and single-employee businesses.
- $100,000 for childcare centers
- $50,000 for working artists, defined as individuals who earn 50 percent or more of their income from an artistic enterprise.
Explaining his vote against the measure, Haba said he had concerns about the cost, the scope, and oversight of the pandemic fund.
“I voted against the proposal because I believe this was a larger amount to put on the table to help,” said Haba at the end of the meeting. “I understand the urgency to provide relief to businesses and residents, but at the same time, in the fiduciary duty of the city I believe due diligence and strategic thinking and planning to make sure the fund is used accurately is needed.”
“I think moving ahead with the organizations presented was a little bit hasty on our part,” continued Haba.
Mayor Candace Hollingsworth said she suggested the charities because they have a history of providing assistance to Hyattsville residents.
“I was looking at who’s already doing the work, which indicates to me who is interested in being able to do this work,” said Hollingsworth. “If there are other organizations that can meet the capacity that we need to have this objective, I’m all ears, but this is what I see based on my knowledge of the community and who I see doing the work at this point.”
But the fund comes with several conditions for the nonprofits that take the money. This was one of the key tasks before City Council, establishing the terms of a memorandum of understanding between the city and the recipient nonprofits over how the money would be distributed. By the time City Council voted on the measure, the conditions in the proposed MOUs had grown to include calls for a reporting structure, a desire to a have the nonprofits distribute the money without taking demographics into account while also maintaining demographic information for program applicants for the city to review later. Council also asked for a clawback provision in the MOUs allowing the city to reclaim unspent funds from the nonprofits after six months to be redistributed to other pandemic relief programs.
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