Farmington Hills officials allocate funding to CARES

Farmington Hills city council members on Monday allocated $5,000 in federal funds help a local nonprofit serving hundreds of residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During their teleconference meeting, officials heard from Jerry Ellis, a former mayor and council member, who asked that they direct $15,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to CARES of Farmington Hills. The federal program already supports other nonprofits and housing rehabilitation.

Community Development Coordinator Charmaine Kettler-Schmult said CDBG funds must benefit low and moderate income residents.

Ellis said the CARES drive-thru food pantry now serves more than 1,000 people each month, 55 percent of whom live in Farmington Hills. The nonprofit’s service area also includes Farmington, Livonia, Northville, Novi, West Bloomfield, Redford, and Southfield.

“CARES has seen an incredible uptick in their services in this last month,” council member Samantha Steckloff said. “It looks like they spend about $10,000 feeding our community in need. They have taken on a huge, huge load and responsibility. I believe we should be part of this help as much as possible.”

15 percent nonprofit limit

The CDBG proposal included $325,730 in housing rehabilitation funding and allocations to:

  • HAVEN, which serves victims of domestic and sexual violence – $10,000
  • Common Ground, which provides counseling services – $5,000
  • Lighthouse Michigan, which serves people who are homeless – $7,500

Kettler-Schmult said funding for the 2020-2021 fiscal year would likely not be received until October or November, and has come in as late as January. However, she said, the city will also receive $210,000 in COVID-19 relief funds for this fiscal year, which ends in June.

While the CDBG standards limit the city to spending 15 percent of the total budget on public service organizations, the relief allocation will not have that restriction, Kettler-Schmult said. The federal government has not given specific details about spending the funds, she added.

“There will be a public hearing as soon as we’ve gotten guidance and little more clarity on the topic,” she said.

Mayor Vicki Barnett said since the COVID-19 money will arrive more quickly, it may be more appropriate for CARES.

$5,000 to CARES

City attorney Steve Joppich said that if officials allocated funds to CARES, Kettler-Schmult would have to ensure the nonprofit qualifies. That could be done after the CDBG budget is finalized.

Joppich also pointed out that council member Ken Massey, as chair of the CARES Board of Directors, would have to recuse himself from the vote if CARES is included. Massey agreed.

Mayor Pro Tem Valerie Knol offered a motion, unanimously approved, to add $5,000 in the 2020-2021 CDBG budget, “since their need is really immediate, it’s over the next few months, and we’re going to look at ways to maybe get them another $15,000 in the next few months.”

Barnett said by the council’s next meeting, Kettler-Schmult would vet CARES and look at any unexpended funds that officials could allocate by amending the 2019-2020 CDBG budget.