PALM BAY - In an update to an article published last week by Hometown News Brevard, the Palm Bay City Council recently voted in a 4-1 motion to allocate over $5 million in ARPA funding to help alleviate homelessness and provide options for affordable housing. This discussion and motion took place at the May 5, 2022 meeting during the New Business section of the agenda.

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was passed in 2021 and provides $1.9 trillion in funding “delivering direct relief to the American people, rescuing the American economy, and starting to beat the virus.” This was broken down to relief for individuals as well as state and local government agencies. For the city of Palm Bay, this ARPA funding came in the form of two identical allocations totalling $18,009,865. The first disbursement of $9,004,932.50 was received by the city in June of 2021, and the second round will be disbursed in June 2022. This funding must be expended or earmarked for spending by December 31, 2024, with all funding fully expended by December 31, 2026.

During the meeting, Palm Bay City Council members discussed the proposed funding allocation, which originally set aside $2 million towards homelessness and affordable housing projects. In April 2022, the city of Palm Bay sent out a Request For Information (RFI) that had 12 responses from local and regional nonprofit agencies and for-profit companies that proposed the usage of additional funding from other sources to provide support to Palm Bay residents experiencing housing insecurity. The proposed amount of funds from the RFI ranged from $75,000 to $5 million, and covered a usage of public services to supportive housing.

In a presentation given by city staff during the Council meeting, the potential ARPA funding for homelessness and affordable housing support was broken down into three tiers of strategy to provide assistance. Tier 1 covered emergency assistance and housing, Tier 2 would provide a combination of temporary housing and case management, and Tier 3 would result in permanent affordable housing for qualifying individuals. According to Palm Bay city staff, using this money to meet the community’s need in the form of supportive housing is an eligible use of ARPA funding as it qualifies as a response “to the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits.”

The first ARPA disbursement to Palm Bay has an unmarked balance of $3.3 million, which leaves a $12.3 million remaining balance of funding after the second installment arrives in June. During the May 5 meeting, council members discussed the proposed allocations, which included funding for enhanced cleaning and COVID-19 protocols, $5.2 million towards the financing of construction of new municipal Building E, and $2 million towards homelessness and affordable housing. This would leave a balance of both disbursements of a little over $5 million.

In response, Councilman Felix said that “at the end of the day, people come first” and Councilman Foster echoed that sentiment by saying “This money is not coming back. We’ve got one shot at this, and we’ve got to get it right the first time.”

After much discussion, Deputy Mayor Kenny Johnson proposed a motion to allocate the remaining balance of both disbursements to further support homelessness and affordable housing - in addition to the originally proposed $2 million. This would allocate $5,039,601 to work with local nonprofits and companies to provide much needed support and programming in all three tiers that will help Palm Bay citizens experiencing housing insecurity.

When asked why he was compelled to propose funding that more than doubled the original amount towards this allocation, Deputy Mayor Johnson responded via email to Hometown News Brevard: “My decision was prompted by the fact that our housing challenges have intensified more than ever since the pandemic. One of the key components for the ARPA funding was to address this very issue. I saw an opportunity to get the most out of this once in a lifetime funding to work with local organizations in addressing homelessness and affordability. The [$5 million plus] can address emergency assistance, temporary housing, case management, and permanent affordable housing. All of [which share] importance in equipping those in need the tools to self sustain and thrive in our great city Palm Bay.”

The motion passed 4-1, with the only nay vote belonging to newly elected Councilman Filiberto. Official plans for this allocation have yet to be finalized, but will be solidified in future discussions with city staff. The full agenda regarding this discussion can be found at: https://palmbayfl.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/Coversheet.aspx?ItemID=2734&MeetingID=77.

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