The city of Rome has received another $255,497 in CARES Act assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The new money comes on top of the $258,026 which was received earlier this year and earmarked to assist small businesses to help keep them open and retain jobs across the community.
Rome Community Development Director Bekki Fox is asking the city to consider a new Financial Hardship Assistance program to help people who have suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic with rent, mortgage and or utility payments.
“It’s for people who have gotten behind because they were in quarantine, or had COVID or lost their job because of COVID,” Fox said. “We’re going to hopefully roll that program out at the first of the year.”
Commissioner Randy Quick said the committee did not get deep into the details of the program, but did want Fox to move forward with the development.
Fox has already reached out to some nonprofits who have echoed the need for some kind of subsistence assistance.
“We understand there are people out there who are struggling paying rent and making their mortgage payment right now,” said Community Development committee Chairman Mark Cochran. “It’s a really great thing when the city can contribute and help people in some small way to stay solvent in this difficult time.”
“I can see community partnerships developing and I think it is something that is going to be very well received by the community,” said Commissioner Randy Quick.
“This is a way of preventing homelessness,” said Commissioner Sundai Stevenson. “I see this every day and this is greatly needed.”
Growing needs across the community are also forcing the Community Development office to bring on another employee next year to help manage all of the programs that Fox said are bottlenecking.
The city still has more than $100,000 left from the first round of CARES Act assistance.
“HUD has loosened up some of the regulations so it’s easier for us to meet the job retention criteria,” Fox said. “We have a couple of businesses that have applied who were not in business in 2019 (and therefore could not show losses with any kind of pre-COVID-19 data) they were actually starting in 2020 and were just fixing to get their city business license when the city shut down.”
The Community Development committee also gave Fox the green light to consider locally-owned and operated franchisees of national businesses which had not been permitted during the rollout of the original $5,000 grant program.
Quick said the committee didn’t want to see money just sitting in a bank when it could go to companies that otherwise meet all of the requirements for assistance from the program.
Fox and Downtown Development Director Aundi Lesley are going out to some of the small restaurants in the community to see if they could find some who qualify for and need the aid.
“This is not a gimmick, this is really $5,000 of free money,” Fox said.