Edmonds Rescue Plan could put $12 million back into the city

The City Council is set to further discuss and approve the plan at a July 20 meeting.

EDMONDS — The American Rescue Plan Act will provide the city of Edmonds nearly $12 million and is slated to deliver much-needed assistance to hundreds of households, local businesses and nonprofits, as well as financial aid for job training and funding for “green” infrastructure projects.

A proposal from Mayor Mike Nelson earmarks grants of up to $2,500 for up to 400 households in 2021 and 2022, and up to 200 households in 2023 and 2024. These grants can be used for housing expenses, food, medical bills, childcare and internet access. It’s also slated to provide grants of up to $1,000 to 150 Edmonds households to help pay outstanding utility bills and grants of up to $5,000 for 200 households to make housing repairs — especially focused on energy-saving measures.

Patrick Doherty, director of economic development and community services for the city, presented the Edmonds Rescue Plan Fund at the July 13 city council meeting. The council will likely vote to approve the plan at its July 20 meeting, Doherty said.

“Having it focused on people who have had to suffer through all of this over the last 16 months — all this unknown stuff, its gonna be interesting to see how this can help,” Council President Susan Paine said after Tuesday’s meeting.

Doherty said the threshold for qualifying for household assistance was lowered from 60% of Edmonds’ median income, which was used during CARES act funds disbursement, to the proposed 40% for Edmonds Rescue Plan funds. He said the majority of people who took advantage of CARES Act dollars fell below 40% of Edmonds’ median income.

Doherty said an estimated 2,460 households fall at or below 40% of the city’s median income. Using 2018 U.S. Census Bureau data and calculating in inflation, the city estimates Edmonds’ median income is about $87,693.

The city hopes to set aside another $200,000 for general support of the business community, up to $300,000 in tourism promotion and up to $625,000 in direct grants to small businesses “most affected by the COVID-19-related economic recession,” according to the proposal.

These funds would target businesses outside of the downtown area.

“We felt that it made the most sense in compliance with the (rescue plan) guidance that we focus on the most distressed communities within our community,” Doherty said.

The proposal sets aside an additional $500,000 to support nonprofits, under what city officials described as a “broad definition” of a nonprofit. A total of $4.7 million could be dedicated for “green” infrastructure projects, including stormwater management, green streets and rain gardens.

During Tuesday’s meeting, councilmembers said these funds could potentially support recovery work for salmon-bearing habitat such as long-awaited work within the Perrinville Creek basin.

“There are all sorts of opportunities to do some real restoration work,” Paine said after the meeting.

According to the proposal, $600,000 will be used to establish a job retraining program for working adults seeking additional skills or credentials, and the remaining $750,000 will be used to fund the city’s “incurred” or “obligated” expenditures.

“It’s focused on sort of working adults who need to go back and get more certifications or finish that degree or get a higher level of qualification in something,” Doherty said.

Edmonds received the first $5.95 million on June 25 and is expected to receive the remaining $5.94 million in June 2022. The funds will be available to cover spending between March 3, 2021, through Dec. 31, 2024.

Councilmembers will have a chance to propose additional changes to the proposal before they approve it.

Councilmember Diane Buckshnis said she hopes the council will consider reevaluating how the funds are distributed at the next council meeting.

“It’s an ordinance, so we can always make amendments,” Paine said. “I’m pretty happy with how things look.”

Doherty said what sets Edmonds apart from other nearby cities’ use of rescue plan funds is the city’s dedication of over 90% of the money to the community, rather than city operations.

“At the end of the day,” Doherty said, “that’s our overarching thing to help households get back on their feet, help businesses get back on their feet, help individual people who’ve lost jobs or lost earning power or lost hours to get back on their feet. And to help fund projects that are going to be more sustainable for our future, and then for the future of our environment here in town and in the Puget Sound.”

Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; isabella.breda@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @BredaIsabella.

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