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Federal funding to help Dover's homeless

Emily Lytle * Delaware
elytle@doverpost.com
Dover Post

Dover City Council met via video conference April 13 for their first meeting since early March, when city offices closed.

Here are a few key takeaways from the meeting.

Federal funding

After President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act March 27, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allocated $7 million in grants to Delaware.

The grants fall under different categories, and Wilmington gets about $2 million total, New Castle County gets $2.1 million, and the state gets $2.3 million to distribute to other parts of the government.

Dover was given $163,211 in Community Development Block Grants, which city staff proposed they use to help the homeless in partnership with the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services.

Although HUD suggested that state and local governments use CDBG funds to do things like construct medical buildings or expand hospital capacity, the funds are usable for other activities, such as providing hotel or motel vouchers to the homeless, said Tracey Harvey, Dover’s CDBG program administrator. With the amount of money allocated, helping the homeless made the most sense, she said.

“That’s what’s most needed,” she said. “We wanted to spend this money fast and we did it the quickest way we could.”

The council members gave the city permission to make a contract with DHSS. With the new federal funds, Dover can reimburse DHSS for providing hotel/motel vouchers and essential services, or preventing homelessness by paying up to three months of someone’s rent.

While the federal grants are not directly available to local organizations like Dover Interfaith Mission for Housing and Central Delaware Housing Collaborative, they can contact DHSS if they have clients who need help.

The public comment period was reduced to five days, ending Monday, April 20 at 5 p.m. The notice is available here. The money is not in the city’s system yet and Dover still needs to sign a DHSS contract, so grants will likely be processed by the end of the month, Harvey said.

Emergency ordinance

With council’s unanimous approval, the ordinance gives the city manager the authority to waive certain charter, code, policy and procedure requirements during the governor’s state of emergency.

For example, if there is an emergency repair needed, City Manager Donna Mitchell said she can hire whichever contractor can fix it the quickest without waiting for council’s approval. She said she will continue to inform council of her actions.

While it allows council and other city departments to meet less than once a month, president Bill Hare said they will continue to meet virtually. When asked about the planning commission, Dave Hugg, director of planning and inspections, said staff will likely meet virtually no later than May 18.

Council member Matt Lindell made the motion to approve under the condition that the ordinance be reviewed after 30 days, like the state of emergency.

Parks and other updates

The city manager and council members clarified that Dover’s parks are open, but people should not be using playgrounds. People in parks should be staying away from groups.

Mitchell said the slides on playgrounds have been shrink-wrapped and basketball nets have been disabled to discourage use.

City customers should note that bulk trash will not be collected at this time. All changes in services and city updates are online at https://www.cityofdover.com/covid-19.