Lima council rejects new virus aid programs on first reading

By Josh Ellerbrock -

LIMA — Lima City Council failed to pass new Community Development Block Grant allocations that funded aid programs due to concerns about the bill’s additional $500,000 allotment aimed toward developing an isolation and quarantine facility during its Monday night meeting.

Council President John Nixon provided the single “no” vote on the bill, while Councilor Derry Glenn abstained. Due to the lack of six “yes” votes, the piece of legislation will now be considered when councilors meet again in two weeks to vote again on its second reading.

At issue is more than $800,000 provided through a special CDBG allocation meant to help low- to moderate-income residents deal with extra costs related to the pandemic. Councilors had asked in October for such dollars to fund two assistance programs targeting struggling businesses and tenants, but the city administration proposed that $500,000 of those dollars be used to develop a special isolation and quarantine facility that would support homeless individuals and families, as well as those needing a specialized place to quarantine during the pandemic.

After looking at the ordinance in more detail, Nixon voiced concerns about the plan as it has evolved since that time.

Community Development Director Susan Crotty explained that the city is now working with a number of nonprofits and social service providers to create what could be a $2.5 million housing project that would be shifted post-pandemic to provide support services to residents in need. To be potentially operated by Coleman Professional Services, the City of Lima would have funded $500,000 of the multi-family development’s initial cost through its allocated CDBG-CV dollars.

Currently, Crotty said shelter organizations and other social support nonprofits have been helping homeless by paying for hotel stays for those who need to quarantine during the pandemic.

“Why not allocate this money to support these agencies that already have this in place?” Nixon asked.

Crotty replied that the city would have to accept applications in order to do so, and there’s a legal question whether such a program would be an allowed use for the funds.

With the legislation failing to pass on first reading, that leaves the other CDBG programs proposed by councilors on hold. Under the proposed ordinance, $150,000 would have funded a “business assistance program” that could loan up to $5,000 grants to eligible businesses, and $172,207 would have been set aside for a rental assistance program to help low- to moderate-income residents facing evictions.

Back in October, councilors stressed the importance of developing these programs quickly in order to help fulfill the need of additional community support as residents suffer through the pandemic.

In the meantime, Crotty stressed that those in need of rental assistance may find such help from the West Ohio Community Action Partnership. While it may take some time for the city to launch its own assistance program (if the legislation passes), WOCAP has a pot of dollars to help relieve the potential need, which has to be used by the end of December.

“As it comes to rental assistance, people need to call WOCAP now to get that,” she said.

By Josh Ellerbrock

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

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