City Manager Tom Ambrosino and Council President Roy Avellaneda both said the Council is likely to approve an emergency funding request of $1.6 million to continue helping with food efforts and to pay for services at the regional quarantine hotel in Revere.
Ambrosino said the funding is critical and he expects the Council to agree.
“They will vote that at the next meeting,” he said. “That will cover the food distribution and the hotel costs for May. We will get reimbursed for some costs by FEMA and assistance from Gov. Baker who has offered to help us as much as the state can. The Council has committed to doing this because it is an essential need and we need it.”
The hotel has mostly been covered by Revere, which paid $470,000 at the outset to reserve the hotel. Chelsea has been picking up security costs and other operations. The expenses for the hotel have been about $1 million so far, and Ambrosino said Chelsea’s portion would come in at around $600,000 in the end.
In addition to Revere and Chelsea, now Lynn and Somerville have joined in on the hotel effort.
“It’s expensive,” said Ambrosino. “At some point we’ll figure out an accounting and Lynn and Somerville will pay their fair share and Chelsea will figure out who owes what. We are all City leaders and all trust each other and feel confident it will work out in the end.”
Council President Avellaneda said they are calling the request COVID-19 2.0, as the Council has already approved $500,000 earlier this month in emergency funding for food and other quarantine measures.
“This is something we know we need to do,” he said. “Now we’re looking to support and fund the efforts by the Salvation Army, the National Guard and the volunteers for the box distribution. You’ll see myself, Councilor Todd Taylor and Councilor Naomi Zabot distributing boxes. Councilor Calvin Brown has picked up some boxes for residents who cannot make it down to the distributions. Councilor Melinda Vega and myself have been working on the frontlines at the Chelsea Collaborative twice a week at their distributions. We know the urgency and see it firsthand.”
Avellaneda said they would also be voting on the emergency housing program, which has opened and will be using Community Preservation Act (CPA) money to fund rent payments for families who apply, qualify and are chosen through a lottery system.
Avellaneda said he and former Councilor Matt Frank advocated heavily for the CPA to be passed two years ago. It’s to be used for affordable housing, historic preservation and open space and is collected on top of the property tax. Never, however, would he have thought it was something that could assist residents in a pandemic.
“I always said the best part would be the things we’ll be able to do with CPA that we cannot imagine now,” he said. “Here we are today. At no point in time would I have been able to predict we would use CPA money for pandemic responses. Thank God the people of Chelsea passed the CPA a few years ago, and it means we can help people a lot today.”