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City of Gainesville looks to provide relief to individuals and businesses

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

The Gainesville City Commission will consider a new initiative, GVNCares, at virtual meetings tomorrow (3:00 p.m.) and Monday (3:00 p.m.). According to the agenda backup, “GNVCares is an effort to reprogram existing resources as well as allocate federal and state dollars that the City of Gainesville will receive under the CARES Act… This is the first phase of a program which will be expanded upon the availability of additional resources. It is intended to be a starting point, not an end.” [Emphasis in original document.]

There are two parts to the initiative. GNVCares About Neighbors is “designed to assist households (neighbors) who are in the extremely-low, very-low, low, and moderate income categories” who have been financially impacted by COVID-19. The program provides temporary rent/mortgage and utility payments for up to 6 months, not to exceed $2,500.

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The program will require income verification and proof that the pandemic caused a reduction in wages. If unemployed, proof of application for unemployment benefits is required.

Funding will come from CARES Act block grant funds ($140k) and unused SHIP Funds from Program Years 17-19 ($556k).

GNVCares About Businesses is “designed to assist City of Gainesville small businesses that saw their operations curtailed” as a result of the pandemic. The program will provide grants of up to $5k to help with rent and utilities.

Businesses must be located in the city limits, must have sustained a loss in revenue from public health restrictions, have a maximum of 50 employees, and not filed for bankruptcy before March 16, 2020.

Funding will come from a variety of sources. The Commission has postponed some budgeted expenses, including technology upgrades for the Commission Chambers ($400k) and electric charging stations ($40k). Other funds intended for economic development will come to $250k, and “fuel savings” will contribute $140k.

$430k in FY19 block grant funds will be redirected toward GNVCares, and the city expects to get $400k in CARES Act block grants from the federal government.

Another $830k will come from redirecting Gainesville CRA funds that had previously been intended for economic development and midtown policing.

The City intends to contract with Capital Access, the City’s HUD consultant, to manage the applications for the funds in exchange for 5% of the awarded amount, or about $125k.

When asked which projects the SHIP and Community Development Block Grant funds from previous years were originally allocated to and why they weren’t spent as planned, City Communications Director Shelby Taylor replied, “In response to the shelter-in-place and social distancing associated with the COVID-19 crisis, many of our housing programs/projects have experienced delays in start-up and/or completion. Such delays, and the inability to maintain social distancing in order to undertake these activities, have curved [sic] the City of Gainesville Housing & Community Development Division’s and Partner Housing Agencies ability to expend its CDBG and SHIP funding allocation for the referenced years as projected.”

More information about CDBG and SHIP funds can be found here.