Nearly two dozen people voiced their ideas on how Rochester should spend $7.5 million in federal coronavirus relief funds at a City Council committee meeting Thursday.
Some wanted better access to digital infrastructure for the city’s children. Others wanted more support for the city’s homeless. Some petitioned for a break in rent payments.
The full Council is set to vote this month to allocate the funding, which was provided to the city in April under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
As it stands, Council will use the funding to modify the 2019-20 Consolidated Community Development Action Plan, a document that maps out how the city spends Department of Housing and Urban Development grants. The largesse includes Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA), and Emergency Solutions Grants.
Brigit Hurley, senior director of advocacy and program at the Children’s Agenda, encouraged Council to use funds to address the “digital divide” by expanding internet access.
“Among the realities exposed by the coronavirus pandemic are the disparities that exist in Rochester, particularly in access to Wi-Fi and appropriate devices,” Hurley wrote. “As a result, children are being denied educational services, speech and other therapies, social and emotional support, and arts, literary, and music experience.”
Angela Rollins, community operations associate at the Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, wrote a detailed list covering economic relief that the CARES funding could provide, including assisting residents who fell behind on rent and other payments due to the pandemic.
“I think people are going to need reasonable grace periods to pay for these bills that were deferred,” Rollins wrote. “They’re going to need more time.”
Rochester resident Norma Torres was more blunt. “Free rent!” Torres wrote.
The legislation outlining the use of funds came out of committee Thursday evening by unanimous vote. The bill will go to vote at the Council’s monthly meeting on Tuesday.
The proposed use of CARES funding will provide $4.9 million to Community Development Block Grants, $2.4 million to Emergency Solutions Grants, and $142,029 to HOPWA.
Programs set to go to vote Tuesday include: