$900K in pandemic relief is coming to Chandler SanTan Sun News

$900K in pandemic relief is coming to Chandler

April 28th, 2020 STSN Staff
$900K in pandemic relief is coming to Chandler
Community
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By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

The city of Chandler is expecting more than $900,000 in relief aid from the federal government to stave off economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chandler is planning to use $850,000 of its allocation from the CARES Act for its Community Development Block Grant program, which distributes funds out to local organizations that service low-income neighborhoods.

According to city documents, grants coming from the $850,000 allotment would have to fulfill a need caused by the coronavirus and must target low-income residents directly impacted by the pandemic.

It cannot be used to plug budget gaps created by decline in revenue.

Some activities the grants could be used for include rental assistance, paying for food supplies, supplementing the costs of medical transportation, and supporting organizations that help homeless individuals.

Chandler notably saw a 39-percent increase in homeless residents during a survey done earlier this year.

The city regularly awards CDBG funds each year for a wide variety of community projects. During the most recent fiscal year, CDBG money was spent on rehabilitating rundown homes, renovating Chandler’s parks, and hiring social workers for local nonprofits like AZCEND.

Located in downtown Chandler, AZCEND has been rapidly adapting to a sudden demand for social services that’s been triggered by COVID-19 in recent weeks.

Trinity Donovan, the organization’s chief executive officer, said AZCEND has observed a 30-percent increase in residents seeking emergency food boxes.

Before the pandemic, AZCEND was distributing about 700 food boxes each week. That number has jumped to nearly 1,000 within the last month, Donovan noted.

AZCEND isn’t close to running out of supplies yet, Donovan added, but she’s closely monitoring the organization’s inventories and seeking out emergency grants AZCEND may be eligible for.

In addition to the extra CDBG funds, Chandler was given $69,000 in federal relief to maintain operations at the city’s airport.

Chris Andres, the airport’s administrator, said the funding is reserved for non-construction expenses like payroll, supplies, and general operational costs.

The Chandler Airport has been greatly impacted by the current health crisis, Andres noted, with fewer flights coming in and nearby businesses closing their doors. 

“Several airport businesses have suspended operations, cut back on operating hours, focused on other lines of business or are preparing for the post-pandemic recovery,” Andres said.

Chandler could get additional funds from a variety of federal programs created to pump cash into government entities, but it’s unknown what the city can expect.

Among those funding streams is a portion of more than $7 billion going to the state directly. The state would get the biggest share of that  money but it also must distribute some to cities and counties with less than 500,000 people.

Maricopa and Pima counties, as well as Mesa, Phoenix and Tucson are getting money directly from the federal government in this Cares Act program. Mesa just learned it is getting $90 million. But that money also cannot be used to plug budget holes.

Chandler’s total allocation of CARES Act funding may be lower than Arizona’s larger cities, which stand to receive up to 45-percent of the state’s apportionment.

Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke was one of 307 mayors from across the country who signed a letter last month asking Congress to appropriate $250 billion in direct assistance for local governments.

“This will empower the nation’s mayors to immediately take the bold actions necessary to protect the American public from both the pandemic and the subsequent economic fallout,” the letter stated.

As of this week, the city said it had not been advised yet whether Chandler will get any additional funding beyond the $900,000 already given.

Regardless of federal aid, the city has begun planning to limit its expenditures in the prospect that tax revenues dramatically drop in the coming months. Chandler’s most recent budget projections for the next fiscal year shows the city earning $20 million less in revenue than what was projected before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sales tax revenues are estimated to be smaller by 11 percent compared to projections Chandler had set before the economic downturn.

To combat this possible drop in revenue, City Manager Marsha Reed said she’s put a hold on all personnel travel through the end of 2020, has kept some vacant positions open, prioritized certain capital projects and is delaying the replacement of city vehicles.

Reed recently advised council members there’s about a months-long delay for the state to provide updated data on tax revenues – which may pose a challenge for council members wanting the most relevant data before adopting a budget in the coming weeks.

“We will not have a really great data set for a few more months,” Reed told the council, “and you will only see your first data point maybe before you have to make that first vote of the budget.”

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