Sending every resident face masks through the mail. Awarding grants to local businesses. Covering college tuition for retraining. Providing money to food banks. These were among the ideas offered by Mountlake Terrace City Councilmembers during a remote Monday night discussion on how to spend the $647,000 the city anticipates receiving through the federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act.
City Manager Scott Hugill began the discussion by explaining the parameters known so far for the funding, which is available on a reimbursement basis from the State of Washington. First among them: The expense must be connected to the COVID-19 emergency. In addition, the city needs to spend the money by the end of October to ensure the paperwork gets to the state and federal government in a timely manner by the end of the year, Hugill said.
The city manager noted that councilmembers had already identified three program areas for the funds, which include distribution to food banks, assisting residents with unpaid bills, and business loans/grants. During Monday night’s meeting, councilmembers offered a range of specific suggestions for staff to pursue. Among them:
Councilmember Laura Sonmore said she wanted to find ways to offer relief for citizens facing high utility bills and ensure that money gets to local food banks. “This is beyond belief what our citizens are having to suffer,” she said of the impact COVID-19 is having on the community.
Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem Doug McCardle suggested that the city consider providing money to local senior living facilities to help with cleaning supplies.
Councilmember Erin Murray noted that the City of Arlington sent out face coverings to every resident, and thought that idea might have promise.
Expressing support for the face mask idea, Councilmember Bryan WahI also added that “anything we can be doing to get the economy and our community back on track is going to be critical.” Wahl suggested the city consider using funds to help businesses that are still closed — perhaps because they can’t afford the necessary protective equipment — to reopen. Another idea: Reimbursing residents for spending money at a local business.
Councilmember Steve Woodward said he’d like to ensure that the CARES Act money directly benefits those who live in the city, asking “Can I put dollars in my actual residents’ hands?” He remarked that during an economic downturn, people often need job retraining so one form of relief could be offering to cover college tuition.
Mayor Kyoko Matsumoto Wright suggested the city could provide a “coronavirus kit” to all residents that includes a cloth mask, hand sanitizer and other necessary items, with the goal of ensuring the city made a connection connecting with the community.
Hugill said that he would take the council’s feedback and work with staff to prepare a list of short-, medium- and long-term priorities, which will be brought back to the council soon for approval.
In other action, the council listened to a city staff presentation on updating the city’s flood hazard regulations. That topic will be the discussion of a public hearing during a special remote city council meeting next Monday, June 8.
— By Teresa Wippel