City of Holladay receives $906K in federal aidAug 03, 2020 11:04AM ● By Zak Sonntag
Holladay’s new part-time bailiff enforces hygiene standards at City Hall. (Zak Sonntag/City Journals)
By Zak Sonntag | [email protected]
The City of Holladay has obtained $906,000 in federal stimulus money to help the local economy fight back against the ongoing coronavirus recession. The funds, administered by Salt Lake County, are part of the national CARES Act, the $2 trillion stimulus bill passed by congress in March. Holladay leaders are predisposed to funnel the new allowance to local businesses; however, the stimulus comes with stipulations, which creates hurdles for the city as it tries to get money to small business most in need.
“I’d like to see more money going to small business as grants. But we don’t have the administrative bandwidth to send out applications and vet applications. Also, if we don’t act quickly, then those funds go back to the county,” Mayor Rob Dahle said during a city council work session in July.
Adding to the challenge, the city only has a two-month window to find approved uses for the stimulus, with unused funds to be returned at the end of September. The time window ups the urgency for decision makers, but acting too quickly could hurt the city more in the long run, because Holladay assumes liability for improperly distributed resources.
“The risk is on us. If there was an audit, and money was expended improperly, the City of Holladay would be on the hook,” said City Manager Gina Chamness, who is overseeing the effort. “The agreement we’ve made with the County is that we will be responsible to ensure that it’s administered correctly.”
With only 14 full-time employees, Holladay lacks the administrative capacity to vet aid applicants and administer funds, especially at a time when discoveries of fraud by federal aid recipients has put public officials on high alert.
Currently, the city is in negotiations with Salt Lake County over application processing. If the County is willing to process applications on behalf of Holladay, then local businesses could see up to a $200,000 infusion before Oct 1.
“As a first priority we’d like to get it to small businesses. If we had a year to put this together, that’d be one thing. But we’ve got to get the funds back. Our hope is that the County will help us get packages out to our businesses. If they can’t, then I don’t know that we’ll be able to get it out there,” said Dahle, speaking with the Holladay Journal by phone.
If the County declines, the city will look at other ways to bolster business, like underwriting the cost of hand sanitizer and facemasks for local entities.
Albeit some are discussing another option. Jason Woodland, president of the Holladay Chamber of Commerce, floated the idea of a volunteer board of locals with expertise to administer the application process. “One option is putting together a task force that has business understanding and knows how to determine a businesses survivability,” Woodland said. “But it’s always easier said than done, and I’m reluctant to ask people to dedicate more time because we’re already volunteering on so many levels.” The Chamber is a volunteer organization.
In the meantime, the city has drafted a tentative budget for the stimulus allowance, with portions allocated to cover the cost of Plexiglas installations in City Hall, additional personal protective equipment (PPE), and new technology required to conduct city business remotely. Also included is a part-time bailiff whose job is to enforce mask wearing in City Hall.
One of the bigger CARES Act distributions will go toward individuals struggling to make rent and mortgage payments, a problem that industry experts at the U.S. Census Bureau predict to get much worse in the coming months. Fortunately, city officials are partnering with Utah Community Action (UCA), a nonprofit helping connect underserved communities with resources like nutrition, education and housing. UCA will help Holladay residents on the verge of displacement stay in their homes.
“The thing that is being feared the most that is as the [federal] subsidies come to an end as we’re running 11% unemployment, it’s that we’re going to see a lot of evictions or foreclosures, and we have an underserved community [in Holladay],” Dahle said.
That partnership takes the administrative burden off the city while still giving local residents a shake at support they may need. The city continues its negotiations with the County in an effort to form a similar administrative partnership that will help Holladay business owners.