The Charlottesville City Council is set to vote today on whether to appropriate $1,192,836 in American Rescue Plan funds to address community and organizational needs related to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
City Council will consider seven requests for ARP funding that collectively total over $1 million. In order for a request to qualify for ARP funding, it must be related to COVID-19 recovery. This can include supporting public health response or addressing negative economic impacts caused by the pandemic.
The largest funding request is $500,000 to cover the costs of about six months of COVID-19 testing for city employees.
Another major item is a request of $400,000 so that vacant office space at the Market Street Parking Garage can be customized so that certain departments, including the Office of Human Rights, can better meet the needs of people they serve.
“The City of Charlottesville’s Office of Human Rights, Home to Hope Program, and Jobs Center (via Economic Development) work directly with the community at-large yet are currently in locations where social distancing is difficult as well as locations that have high community foot-traffic. Further, each of those departments and programs provide critical services to our neighbors who happen to be on a low income, or may be a part of a marginalized community. The proposed update to a city-owned location will provide safe and welcoming office space for staff and citizens to engage safely in service provision program support during the time of COVID-19 and beyond,” the request states.
“Further, if approved, this move will allow our [Police Civilian Review Board] staff to relocate from a temporary office space to the current Office of Human Rights for that program’s permanent location. This location will also provide the PCRB the ability to safely socially distance versus their temporary office space, as the office currently has a staff of one,” the request continues.
The request says that while this is also a one-time funding request to immediately provide safer locations for these particular city departments, the space could easily flex to another department or program if needed in the future.
The Department of Social Services is requesting $15,000 for an emergency shelter. The state of Virginia mandates that local departments of social services provide emergency shelters for residents during emergency operations. Shelters are primarily opened due to weather emergencies; but can be opened for other reasons depending on the emergency situation.
“To mitigate potential [COVID-19] exposure for residents and department employees, the department plans to implement non-congregate shelters if the need arises, using single room hotels for placement. These funds would be used to pay for hotels, meals, transportation, and other associated resident needs,” the request states.
The Department of Human Services is requesting $80,751 for a one full time long-term temporary employee for one year to support Community Resource Hotline/Housing Navigation needs to address negative economic impacts on community members caused by the pandemic. This amount would fund the employee’s salary, benefits and IT phone system/software to address call volume into the Community Resource Hotline.
The Treasurer’s Office is requesting $20,000 to continue to fund temporary staff to service customers through an appointment system for the lobby area of City Hall to maintain social distancing and capacity limits.
The city’s Information Technology Department is requesting $175,904 for the unbudgeted technology items required to continue to support remote operations securely, including those related to internet security. The city’s Communications Department is requesting $1,181 for annual renewal of the two Zoom accounts it uses to host virtual webinar versions of the public meetings. City public meetings are still online only for an indefinite period due to the COVID-19 continuity of governance order signed by City Council.
City staff is recommending the council approve all seven requests.
In March, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to provide additional relief for individuals and businesses affected by the pandemic. The act included funding for state and local governments as well as education and COVID-19-related testing, vaccination support and research.
The city has already received direct funding from the American Rescue Plan in one tranche of $9,804,854 in May and will receive a second tranche of $9,804,854 in May 2022, for a total of $19,609,708. These funds must be obligated by December 31, 2024.
City Council already appropriated $1,986,100 of the ARP funds in July for seven requests.