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Pittsfield City Council Accepts Tyer’s Plan For Federal COVID-19 Relief Money

The Pittsfield city seal
The City of Pittsfield, Massachusetts
City of Pittsfield

Through the recently signed CARES Act, Pittsfield, Massachusetts has received almost $790,000 from the federal government in COVID-19 relief funds. Tuesday night, the city council approved Mayor Linda Tyer’s plan for how to distribute that money to city residents and business owners. WAMC spoke to Tyer about her plan, and how residents can access the funds.

We have set aside a certain amount of funding for residents who are struggling at this time with paying mortgage, rent or utilities. And so we are using a portion of the funds to give- up or- to give three months, or up to $5,000 to a resident who needs help paying mortgage, rent and utilities.

And how do residents in Pittsfield to access those funds?

So the first step in accessing the application process is to contact the City's Community Development Office. Justine Dodds is the person who will be helping both residents and businesses through this application process.

And how much money is set aside specifically for residents for help with those issues?

Using the Community Development Block Grant CARES funding, we have set aside $119,000 for help to residents. But we have also worked with the Community Preservation committee, and they approved an additional $100,000 from the city's Community Preservation funds. So in total, residents will have access to $219,000.

I know there's also a segment of funding set aside for small businesses. Can you walk me through how much money they'll be able to access and what that process is like on their side of the tracks?

Sure. So we also wanted to make sure that we were providing funds and relief and recovery for our small businesses. So we're using two sources of funding. Last night, the City Council approved $400,000 for small business support, and we will be offering grants up to $10,000 per business. And it's for businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

As I understand it, the total amount of CARES Act funding was around $790,000. What exactly is the rest of that money being used for, from that, that large installment?

So, an additional $190,000 will be used to provide an infusion of funds to community-based service providers. So, nonprofit organizations, who are providing vital services to the people of our city, helping those people meet their daily needs. So for example, one of the organizations that we'll be supporting is the Elizabeth Freeman Center, to help them with their programs around sexual assault and domestic violence. We have seen an increased number of domestic violence calls, and so we want to make sure that the Elizabeth Freeman Center has new resources to help support the work that they do in our city. We're also going to provide funding to UCP and Elder Services so that they can continue providing food to their- to the people that they serve. And in addition, there will be funding available to other organizations on a rolling basis. So I'm hopeful that other nonprofit organizations that serve vulnerable people in our community, will contact the city's Community Development Office to find out how they can become eligible for these funds.

Over $80,000 in the proposed use of funds is for "project administration." What exactly does that mean?

So there are really two elements of that. So, this kind of programming for economic relief and recovery is going to involve a lot of administrative services. So the city is going to enter into a contract with a Berkshire County Housing Authority to help us administer the programs for residents who need assistance with mortgages, rent and utilities. So we will be paying a fee to Berkshire Housing to help us administer the grant application, the eligibility assessments, and then the distribution of funds. The second element of the administrative fees is for the city employees who will be also undertaking a significant amount of intake, application review, assessment and disbursement of funds. So, there is, within the Community Development Block Grant structure, the authority for communities to use a portion of the grants to cover the costs associated with those administrative tasks.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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