Charitable organizations to get boost from federal grant money

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published September 3, 2020

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — The good news from this year’s allocation of Community Development Block Grant funds is that St. Clair Shores had enough money to fund every service organization that asked for help.

The bad news is that it comes at a cost to the 45 residents who used the Senior Chore Program because Macomb County is not running the service anymore, which provided snow removal and lawn mowing services.

“They are having funding issues on their end,” said City Planner Liz Koto at the Aug. 17 City Council meeting.

The Senior Chore Program was administered by Macomb Community Action, but in early 2020, the Area Agency on Aging 1-B, which provides funding to Macomb Community Action, determined that the money cannot be used for the regular upkeep and maintenance of homes, which includes grass cutting.

Macomb Community Action approached individual communities, including St. Clair Shores, about administering their own programs, but the city determined that it does not have the capacity to run such a program, which would require it to bid out the snow and grass cutting services every 1-3 years according to requirements from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and to review tax returns or documentation from the residents annually to document that they still qualify for the program. One employee would need to be dedicated to the program to answer questions, monitor contractors and review and pay billing, among other items.

“It is 45 people who have been served regularly for a number of years,” Koto said. “They notified the residents that the service was going to be terminated on Oct. 31.

“The good side of this is that we would be able to fund every single service organization that submitted a request. That’s a lot of streets that we should be able to remove and replace in qualifying census tracts.”

The CDBG funds will support the $133,565.98 payment of the Section 108 loan for the renovation and expansion of the Senior Activity Center; $85,000 for operations for the Senior Activity Center; $7,500 for the Amelia Agnes Transitional Home for Women; $2,000 for Maggie’s Wigs 4 Kids of Michigan; $7,000 for Gilda’s Club Lake House location; $7,500 for the Macomb County Warming Center; $5,000 for Turning Point; $12,000 for Care House; $5,000 for MCWARM at St. Margaret of Scotland Church; $6,500 for the Macomb County Rotating Emergency Shelter Team (MCREST); $10,000 for the St. Clair Shores Hockey Association Player Enablement Fund; $180,000 for administration of the CDBG program; and $924,247.02 for streets and infrastructure replacement of residential streets approved by HUD.

The ability to put more money in the street repair fund will benefit more residents, Councilman John Caron said.

“Typically, a full street repair — block to block — is going to be around $1 million,” he said. “That will be a benefit for those residents.”

Koto said usually the requests come to City Council in the spring, but the COVID-19 pandemic led the federal government to extend the deadline.

Another program usually funded by CDBG money, the Homeowner Rehabilitation Program, has $80,000 in carryover available from the current year to still be spent.

Koto said the former rehab coordinator is now the supervisor for the Code Enforcement Department, so the city is trying to determine how to best move forward with the program.

This is the first year the city is implementing a 5-year plan to budget for CDBG allocations moving forward.

“Each one of these activities will be written into the plan with wiggle room for those who need it,” Koto explained, adding that the Senior Chore Program is being kept in the 5-year plan in case Macomb Community Action is able to bring it back.

St. Clair Shores City Council was set to consider a resolution in support of Senior Chore Program funding restoration through CDBG funding at its Sept. 8 meeting, after the Sentinel went to press.

City Councilwoman Candice Rusie said she appreciated the Planning Commission’s work vetting all of the organizations that request money each year.

“These are very nice services, and it feels very good to be able to help them with the services that they provide,” she said Aug. 17.

Many of the organizations can use help all year long, Councilman Ron Frederick said.

“This is just a drop in the bucket of what they spend,” he said.