City Hall COVID-19 (copy)

The city has about $700,000 of the $1.3 million left in CARES Act funds.

The city of St. Joseph still has about $700,000 of its original $1.3 million in CARES Act funds to be allocated to public service agencies and small businesses.

The City Council unanimously approved two resolutions that would allocate $250,000 each to Community Action Partnership of Greater St. Joseph and Catholic Charities for rent, mortgage and utility assistance.

“Looking at what we’ve been through with the pandemic, looking at what we’ve been through this past week, I think that if the funds are available through CARES Act that we can help people with their rent and rent assistance, I think we need to look to be able to do that,” said City Councilman Marty Novak.

Other public service agencies also received funds. The Social Welfare Board and Pivotal Point Transitional Housing each received $15,000. The Samaritan Center was allocated $10,000, and the YWCA got $4,000.

The city wanted a portion of the funds to go to small businesses, but that has been more of a challenge.

“There isn’t the demand because businesses are improving or they’ve taken advantage of other programs that are available,” said Clint Thompson, the planning and community development director.

Less than five businesses have applied for the $175,000 reserved for small businesses, and only one company, a cleaning service, qualified for $5,000.

“We have to have documentation and backup for their request,” Thompson said. “It’s easy to say, ‘I’ve been affected by COVID. My business is struggling.’ OK, what was your gross profit last year? Document and provide us information so we can assist you. I’ve noticed that the type of requests we’ve received really have been lacking the backup and support to justify providing the assistance.”

The city’s CARES Act funds are from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and have more restrictions than Buchanan County’s CARES funds. The city can only use the money if there are no other funds available, which is the current situation.

However, if the federal or state government approves more financial support to either the county or city, the remaining $700,000 won’t be able to be distributed.

“If the stimulus package that they’re discussing now comes out again, if that opens up more federal funds that have the same types of uses, we’re going to be waiting for those funds to be expended before we can utilize these programs,” Thompson said.

Since the city hasn’t seen much need from local businesses, funds may have to be allocated to other needs.

“We’ll have to redirect those funds to another use,” Thompson said. “If it’s not for business retention, then there may be a new need in the community that we haven’t foreseen at the moment. We have a three-year period to draw down 80% (of funds), and seven to draw down the full amount.”

“We’re in a good position right now, by providing funding for rent assistance and mortgage assistance,” Thompson said. “Those are needs that we know exist.”