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City COVID-19 Recovery Funds Have Been Spent

The $600,000 city officials received from the federal government to help businesses and renters during the COVID-19 pandemic have been spent.

Crystal Surdyk, city development director, announced Monday during a Jamestown City Council work session meeting that once all of the submitted applications are processed the funding will be gone.

“Some of the applications are still being processed,” she said. “If each one is awarded then we will be out of our funds, which is a good thing. It means we’ve helped a lot of people.”

The city received $704,881 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which was authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Of the $704,811 in funding, $600,000 was allocated to two programs, one to assist local businesses and one to help renters. The other $104,811 went toward administration costs. Businesses were allowed to apply for up to $20,000 in funding while renters were allowed to apply for $1,500.

Surdyk told the council 27 grants were given to businesses totalling $528,700. She said, so far, 28 renters have been provided assistance, with more applications to be processed.

If those applications are approved, then $71,300 will be provided to city tenants.

Businesses and tenants that applied needed to provide proof of negative economic impact due to the COVID-19 pandemic to receive funding. Last month, it was announced 18 businesses had received the funding. Those businesses include The Pub; Fringe Hair; The Landmark; Escape Rooms Jamestown; Lotus Healing Center; Nouveau Salon & Day Spa; Panache Salon & Day Spa; Sauce; Tarp Skunks; Allen Street Diner; 4 Below Haggy’s Bar and Grill; Jamestown Bowling Company; The Cherry Lounge; The Chop House; Forte; Gialy’s; Shawbucks; and Lisciandros.

In other business, the council also heard a report from Ben Haskin, city associate counsel, who is working on the Zombie and Vacant Properties Remediation and Prevention Initiative grant. He said city officials have been working on finding vacant and foreclosed properties that are not currently registered on the state Department of Financial Services list of vacant and foreclosed properties. He added city officials randomly selected the order of each ward that will be examined to find vacant and foreclosed properties that weren’t registered before.

Haskin said city officials have completed analyzing Ward 2 and 4 and found 37 additional vacant and foreclosed properties, with 23 in Ward 2 and 14 in Ward 4. He said prior to the work done to find unregistered vacant and foreclosed properties, city officials knew of 75 condemned properties and 43 zombie properties in the city.

“We don’t know how many additional houses we will find in the other four wards,” he said.

Haskin also talked about how city officials will be creating a vacant property task force as part of the grant. He said neighborhood groups, city stakeholders and nonprofit agencies will be a part of the task force.

In July 2019, state officials announced Jamestown officials received funding from “Zombies 2.0” that provides municipalities with the resources to address housing vacancy and blight. The grant provided $200,000 in funding to the city to increase housing code enforcement, track and monitor vacant properties, and bolster legal enforcement capacity to ensure banks and mortgage companies comply with local and state law.

In October 2016, city officials received its first state zombie grant for $150,000. The funds from the first Zombie Remediation and Prevention Initiative program addressed housing vacancy and blight by bolstering municipalities’ capacity for housing code enforcement, for tracking and monitoring vacant properties and for legal enforcement capacity to ensure banks and mortgage companies comply with local and state law. The grant also require communities to develop innovative programs and policies and connect at-risk homeowners to services, so they can avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes.

The “Zombies 2.0” program is a result of the Office of the Attorney General’s $500 million settlement with the Royal Bank of Scotland in 2018 over the bank’s deceptive practice and misrepresentations to investors relating to the packaging, marketing, sale and issuance of residential mortgage-backed securities that can lead to financial crisis. To be eligible, cities, towns and villages had to individually or for joint applications combined have at least 5,000 residents and more than 100 vacant properties.

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