Federal CARES Act Funding Will Help Continue Local Humanitarian Relief: City Will Use Money to Transition to Debit Cards for Food Relief

The City has received – and the Council approved – $2.5 million in funding from the federal CARES Act that it will use to continue providing food and business relief as part of the COVID-19 response.

The funding came through from the federal government in June and was approved last month by the City Council.

Every community received a different level of expenditure, but Chelsea more than many of its neighbors. That money, unlike in other communities, won’t be used to reimburse the local government for services already provided, but rather to continue providing services for a population that hasn’t yet fully recovered from the virus lockdowns.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the funding will be used to continue with the food assistance program, another round of the rent relief lottery program and an initial round of small business relief.

“That will be great to have because now we can perhaps do a second round of the efforts we’ve had,” he said. “We’re really going to need it if we transition from the Food Program distribution to debit card programs. Our goal is to get out of the food distribution business and so people can purchase food when they want it and need it. There are a lot of logistics in the transition.”

Meanwhile, he said they will now be able to conduct a second lottery for the rental relief program. In the first round of that program in April, more than 1,500 people applied and 302 were awarded grants. Now, there will be a second round likely available using the federal money – and just in time as advocates predict an avalanche of foreclosures and evictions as the courts begin to open up again.

A final use for the federal money will be to supplement the new small business assistance fund. That fund got off the ground last money when the Council approved it and began working on criteria. The program has two parts, one for small businesses and the other specifically for restaurant relief.

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