Green Bay council divides federal CARES Act funds
By Rich Palzewic
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay city council heard recommendations from Kevin Vonck, community and economic development director, on how to use federal funds for COVID-19 relief at its Tuesday, May 19, virtual meeting.
Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, he said the City of Green Bay will receive $595,446.
The funds are being split into six different areas.
“We recommend $59,446 (10 percent) going for administrative purposes,” Vonck said. “This would allow staff to charge back time for COVID-related activities. We could have gone up to 20 percent, but we thought 10 percent was a fair allocation because we want to get the funds back into the community.”
Public service activities would receive $120,000.
“This would go to the business improvement districts split equally among the four bids,” said Vonck. “It would be used to help offset the cost of modifying different events. We feel it’s important for us to continue – responsibly – to have events in the community like the farmers market. It brings people to our districts.”
Later in the meeting, District 8 Alder Chris Wery made a motion, which passed unanimously, to reduce the $120,000 public service activities would receive by $20,000 and allocate the money for use in the upcoming elections for increased cost due to COVID-19.
Vonck said the $20,000 would be added to the administrative allocation.
An additional $80,000 from the CARES Act would go toward homelessness assistance programs.
“It might provide safe shelter for homeless individuals in our community, or to make sure they have access to healthcare in times of need,” Vonck said.
He said the community development revolving loan program would see $100,000 from the CARES Act added back to its fund.
“This $100,000 would go back into our larger revolving loan program,” said Vonck. “This works on bigger-picture projects. Those do require job creation for low- to moderate-income individuals.”
Vonck said $100,000 in federal funds would go for essential/front-line employee relief programs.
“This would be working with some of the non-profit providers in our community who are already doing some of these things,” he said. “We’d work on an agreement with these agencies to see where the money is going. Maybe it’s to provide food or shelter, targeted to those who have the maximum exposure in our community.”
Vonck said $136,000 would be allocated to the Green Bay Conservation Corps.
“This would be the city providing some limited-term jobs for unemployed residents,” he said. “For example, there are several smaller parks projects that could use some help. We have the materials, but don’t have the staff time to complete the projects. This would provide some meaningful employment to some individuals in our community.”
Vonck said the report needs to be submitted to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for approval on how the city proposes to use the CARES Act funds before they are received.
District 11 Alder John VanderLeest asked Vonck if the funds had to be spent exactly as presented.
“There is some flexibility, but we are still waiting on the exact rules from HUD on how the money has to be spent,” Vonck said. “The HUD likes to see the money go toward certain activities. I think the push with these dollars is to get them working in the community as quickly as possible.”
To begin the meeting, Mayor Eric Genrich addressed the council.
“Our case numbers of COVID-19 continue to creep up in Brown County,” he said. “Thankfully, it’s slowing down, but it’s still sizable. We have the largest per capita amount of cases in terms of counties in the state. We need to continue to practice good social distancing, but we also need to learn to live with (the virus). As we turn toward summer, we will see many more outdoor activities take place, and from the city’s perspective, we want to encourage that behavior, as long as it’s done responsibly. I would anticipate city parks making some announcements soon opening things up. We all need to get outside and get some exercise. The social and economic impacts the community is dealing with are just as important.”