Flint, MI—The Genesee County Commission voted to approve an amendment of more than $600,000 to the 2020 Action Plan to assist homeless shelters in Flint and residents struggling financially due to COVID-19.

The money comes from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, an economic stimulus bill  passed in response to the economic fallout of the pandemic in the United States. The CARES Act has allocated over $2.5 million to Genesee County.

The funds must be used specifically for preventing, preparing for and responding to COVID-19.

“Obviously right now the economy is not doing so well, and we haven’t gotten a huge influx of homelessness yet, but we kind of think that will happen,” said Damon Fortney, Lead Planner for the Genesee County Metropolitan Planning Commission.

With the additional funding, Fortney said they surveyed the community to see what the needs were and determined some of it it should be spent on emergency shelters.

Applications were sent to shelters all over the area to apply for the shelter operations fund or the shelter improvement fund.

Fortney said the operations fund includes things like supplies, utility costs, and temperature scanners. The improvement fund includes renovations to help shelters practice better social distancing. 

The applications were received in July, and from there the Continuum of Care for Genesee County had to meet to put together an amendment for distributing $300,000 to three Flint shelters. 

The approved proposal gives $17,917 to The Genesee County Youth Corporation located at 914 Church St. for emergency shelter operations. 

My Brother’s Keeper located at 101 N Grand Traverse St. will be receiving $89,936 total. $30,016 will be used for shelter operation costs and the other $59,920 will be used for improvements. Renovations will include converting an unused space into a COVID-19 isolation space and adding new mattresses to distance people better. They will also be renovating the restrooms with touchless faucets.  

The Shelter of Flint located at 924 Cedar St. will receive $192,147. $27,067 will be used for operation costs and the remaining $165,080 will go to shelter improvements and associated maintenance costs. The shelter will be getting new flooring, showers and windows to improve air flow. 

“The eviction moratorium just hit so we’ll be OK for the rest of the year, but anytime this COVID-19 could hit, and tons of people could become homeless,” Fortney said. “This will give people a safe place to stay. If you’re already worried about not having a home, at least you’re not worrying about staying in close quarters with someone else.”

In addition to funds for shelters, the commission approved an amendment using funds from the CARES Act to provide a total of $315,280 in rental and utility assistance through a Rapid Rehousing & Homelessness Prevention project. 

Three agencies will be participating in the project: Catholic Charities, Metro Community Development and the Genesee County Community Action Resource Department. 

Residents who lost their job due to COVID-19 would be able to apply for up to six months of assistance. 

“It’s hard to say exactly how many people that might serve, though we are estimating between 50-250 households. It all depends on the length of time someone needs assistance and how much,” Fortney said. “Residents will be able to apply for up to six months of assistance, so if a household only needed one month of assistance, we would be able to serve more families than if we assisted for a full six months.”

Now that the amendments have been approved by the county commission, they will go to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for approval, which Fortney said should take about a month.

Amy Diaz is a journalist hailing from St. Petersburg, FL. She has written for multiple local newspapers in her hometown before becoming a full-time reporter for Flint Beat. When she’s not writing you...