Flint, MI– Millions of dollars are one step closer to being distributed to various Flint organizations.
During a remarkably civil Flint City Council meeting on Aug. 10, the council voted to approve submitting an amended annual action plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which would allow the city to receive more than $5 million.
According to the resolution, the City of Flint anticipates it will receive Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (also known as the CARES Act) funds in the amount of $2,830,392, from the Community Development Block Grant. The city also anticipates it will receive $2,441,943 from the Emergency Solutions Grant. With both grants, that comes to a total of $5,272,335.
In order to receive this funding, the City had to develop an amendment to the annual action plan outlining how the funds would be allocated.
On July 30 and Aug. 3, the Division of Community and Economic Development held public hearings to receive citizen comments on the proposed allocation plan. Some council members and public speakers noted that residents had technical difficulties getting into the virtual public hearing.
There will be another public hearing on the plan on Aug. 13 at 5:30 p.m. to collect citizen comments before the plan is submitted on the deadline, Aug. 16.
Some council members expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that the plan came before them with such limited time to make changes before the deadline. Council members also expressed concern that it seems the same organizations seem to always get the grant funding.
But, as the council did not want to lose the opportunity to get more than $5 million, they voted to approve the submission of the plan with an amendment of their own, and hours of civil discussion.
Repeatedly throughout the meeting, Councilman Eric Mays remarked that it had been “a good meeting.”
Councilwoman Eva Worthing said she hoped the “spirit of collaboration” would continue in future meetings.
Before approving the amended plan, the council voted to move money from one location to four different centers. The council worked together to decide where money could and should go, and agreed to support each other in their respective choices.
The City of Flint Grand Traverse Greenway was initially allocated $141,162. Council President Kate Fields suggested moving that money around, specifically to allocate some to the Latinx Technology and Community Center for a new playground.
After discussion about options for the funding, the council voted to divide that money four ways, giving $40,000 to the Brennan Community Center, $40,000 to Hasselbring Senior Center, $40,000 to the Latinx Technology and Community Center, and the remaining $21,062 to Asbury United Methodist Church for their youth activities.
Mays proposed moving $5,000 from Catholic Charities and $5,000 from the Greater Flint Health Coalition for facility improvement to give the city $10,000 to do repairs at Jefferson School, although his proposal did not pass.
Director of Planning and Development Suzanne Wilcox advised that in order for this proposal to be eligible for funding and meet the national objective of a ‘community center,’ there needs to be a program operating out of the building.
Fields said that if Mays brought this to the next finance committee meeting, she would be in support of finding other sources of funding for the repairs.
“Because you have been lovely and calm and cooperative, I would like to support you as you helped support me,” Fields said.
Public speaking was reserved for the end of the meeting, and third ward candidate Quincy Murphy, who has been maintaining Jefferson School, called in and let the council know about various programming coming out of the school.
Murphy said there was a variety of programming happening out of the school’s gym that had to stop due to COVID-19. He said the building has leaks in the roof that he could use financial assistance for, and said he appreciated the council considering the school.
Other public speakers said they were unhappy that they were unable to give input to the council about this amended action plan.
Resident Arthur Woodson called it a “bold move” that the council moved public speaking to the end of the night, after approving this amended plan.
“Mayor Neeley went to the people who support him, and is giving them money,” Woodson said. “Y’all bold as hell. This a bold mess right here.”
Rich Jones called in and told the council they have “no community involved” in their decisions.
Resident Dan Wilson called in to bring some “positivity to the comments.”
“I realize the council has been put in a bad position. Money was available long ago, the administration used Machiavellian tactics to do a power grab and bring these before you at the last minute so you had to make quick decisions,” he said. “I hope the public realizes that. … But I just want to congratulate you on a productive meeting, and I realize the time constraints you’re under.”
You can find information on how to join the next public hearing for the amended plan here, and see details about which other organizations were allocated money on page 14 of the council agenda here. Wilcox said there was no passcode for the last hearing, and that residents just needed to hit the pound key (#) twice after calling in to be let into the meeting.