If the current community engagement process to help prioritize the spending of over $15 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) identifies a need to help homeowners impacted by Covid-19, City Manager Thomas Ambrosino said the city will develop a program to meet that goal.
Ambrosino recently responded to a motion from District 6 City Councillor Giovanni Recupero asking him to look into the use of ARPA funds to help homeowners with property tax relief.
However, Ambrosino said there were some caveats about using ARPA funds strictly for anything labeled “tax relief.”
“As you know, the City is currently involved in a robust community engagement process to determine how best to utilize over $15 million in discretionary ARPA funds,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the City Council. “The process involves input from City Councillors, non-profit organizations and residents, including residents who own homes.”
The City Manager said the city is committed to following the recommendations on spending that are prioritized during the process.
“If the community determines that one of the priorities for spending should be financial support to owner-occupants, the City will develop a program to meet that goal,” Ambrosino stated.
However, Ambrosino said if that was a goal, such a program would need to be structured to provide general financial support for homeowners impacted by Covid and not designed specifically as tax relief. The city has to avoid any violation of U.S. Treasury guidelines prohibiting the use of ARPA funds to indirectly offset a reduction in tax revenue, he added.
While directing ARPA funds toward anything that looks like direct tax relief could be difficult, Ambrosino said the city does currently have available financial relief for homeowners suffering from Covid impacts.
“Last December, the City Council approved $750,000 from the City’s stabilization fund to assist homeowners struggling to pay bills, including tax bills, due to the Covid pandemic,” Ambrosino said. “Owner occupants adversely impacted economically by Covid may qualify for a grant between $5,000 and $10,000, depending on the number of units in the home.”
The program has an income qualification limit of 100 percent of Area Median Income ($119,000 for a family of four), and after two rounds of applications, Ambrosino said there is still approximately $460,000 available in the program.
Recupero said he appreciated the input from Ambrosino, but suggested the city might want to take greater steps to help all homeowners with tax relief and ease the application process.