COVID-19 relief funding should not go to businesses violating local law
The Decatur City Council will be discussing whether entities that have violated local law including COVID-19 safety guidelines should receive pandemic relief funding at a special meeting on Monday, December 14 at 5:30 PM. I thank the large majority of small businesses that are and have been following guidelines to keep citizens and employees safe during the pandemic and I strongly support the limited funding the city has available going to small businesses following local laws.
In addition to the discussion of COVID-19 relief funding, the Decatur City Council will hold a public hearing and likely vote on the property tax levy and have a study session on neighborhood revitalization.
REASONS I OPPOSE PROVIDING GRANT FUNDING TO THOSE IN VIOLATION OF LOCAL LAW
As further background, the Decatur City Council will be voting on a subrecipient agreement with the Community Investment Corporation of Decatur (CICD) to distribute $272,477 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding for small business relief in the form of rent/mortgage assistance and utility payments. The subrecipient agreement currently includes the following clause: “Businesses who have been cited or fined because of COVID ordinance violations, and/or other local ordinances within the last 12 months are not eligible for assistance through this program.” This agreement was originally scheduled to be voted on at the last city council meeting, but some council members expressed objections to the clause.
Below are reasons I do not support providing funds to entities violating local law:
1) Protecting the health and safety of our residents is the number one priority of the city. A small number of businesses have repeatedly violated safety guidelines for months, including employees not wearing face coverings while serving customers. The scientific and health care community consensus is that social distancing, wearing face coverings, frequent hand washing, and other measures save lives Some entities are not keeping their employees and customers as safe as possible, and in turn, could exacerbate the negative health and economic impacts the city and its citizens are facing including facilitating further spread of COVID-19.
2) Providing funds to small businesses that are violating local law is fundamentally unfair to businesses that are following the rules. The large majority of small businesses are following local laws and keeping their employees and customers safe during the pandemic. These businesses have pivoted, found ways to stay open while following safety guidelines and local law, and should be supported with the limited rent and utility relief funds the city has available so they can continue to stay open in the future.
3) The city should invest in small businesses that are protecting their customers and employees. Many small businesses voluntarily closed to keep their employees and customers safe during the pandemic. They will need funding to reopen when it is safe to do so. Unfortunately, some small businesses that have previously received state or local support have subsequently been found to be in violation of local law as it pertains to protecting people from COVID-19.
CITIZENS ARE ENCOURAGED TO PROVIDE FEEDBACK TO CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS
If you would like to discuss this or any other issue with a city council member, phone numbers and e-mail addresses for each council member can be found at the following link: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council/.
PLEASE EXPRESS YOUR VIEWS AT CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS
Meetings take place at the Theater located on the second floor of the Decatur Civic Center (1 Gary K. Anderson Place). Free parking is available in the lot immediately south of the entrance. Citizens are encouraged to attend meetings and express their views. Citizens are allotted 3 minutes per person near the beginning of each city council meeting. In addition, citizens can provide comments regarding one regular agenda item per meeting for up to three minutes provided they notify the city in advance (and prior to the start of the meeting). You can request to speak on a particular agenda item at a council meeting by filling out an on-line form at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/advance-request-to-speak-at-council-meeting/.
AGENDAS FOR CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS ARE AVAILABLE ONLINE
An agenda and information about each agenda item for each city council meeting can be found at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council-meetings/.