The economic challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic show few signs of lessening in the immediate future.
In response, the Tigard City Council is broadening or expanding a number of aid programs designed to help local residents bridge the gap while they seek work, housing or other resources. This includes the Resident Aid Fund of Tigard, which was approved by the Council in April and directed $100,000 in grant funding to support local houseless service groups.
“Based on reports we got back, community development would recommend some extension of the program,” City Planner Tyler Warren told the Council at a Sept. 15 workshop. “What form that takes, and the amount, is a question for the Council and Budget Committee. It is clear that need has not diminished. If anything, it’s grown. And the city has an opportunity to help fill some gaps that have been left with federal and state aid.”
Money was originally allocated in April to six nonprofit or faith-based organizations that serve Tigard-area residents. Councilors heard last month that, while the program has been very successful in assisting a range of families and individuals, it remains a drop in the bucket compared to the challenges faced by thousands of people.
“This is incredibly important and those comments really bring home the worry and concern residents have,” Councilor Heidi Leub said at the workshop. “My house is also going through those circumstances and it’s tough. This program has clearly made a huge impact on people’s live. This is really helpful to get this information back.”
Fourteen organizations applied for grant funding, with six of them selected to receive various amounts of money. They included the Community Partners for Affordable Housing (CPAH), the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), Just Compassion, St. Vincent DePaul, Meals on Wheels and Packed with Pride, which is affiliated with the Tigard-Tualatin School District.
The monies allocated for the program were disbursed within 60 days, and the Council now hopes to find the means to expand on the RAFT program in the current budget session that began on Oct. 3.
“We knew there was need,” City Planner Tyler Warren told the Council. “But we didn’t know exactly where this need was.”
The Council received a detailed report at its Sept.15 workshop outlining exactly where the funding went.
CPAH received $7,500, which allowed them to aid 30 local residents with budgeting services and rent assistance. IRCO, meanwhile, received $7,500 to be spent on rent, utility and food assistance within the local Pacific Islander community. This allowed the group to help 20 families. Warren noted the Pacific Islander community has also been among the most impacted by COVID 19 in terms of numbers who tested positive; “Tigard has the largest Pacific Islander community in the state by percentage and even in raw numbers it is large, with specific cultural needs and language barriers,” he said.
Just Compassion is a nonprofit group that assists people without permanent housing. It received $20,000 to provide transportation assistance, protective outdoor covering, benefits navigation aid, hotel vouchers, meals and personal protective equipment.
Meals on Wheels also received $20,000 to provide food assistance for seniors, allowing the group to deliver 3,854 meals before the funds were expended.
St. Vincent DePaul was the single largest recipient of grant funding, and helped give $25,000 for rent and utility assistance to 39 families and utility assistance for 10 families.
The other recipient of grant funding, Packed with Pride, is a joint effort of the Foundation for Tigard Tualatin Schools, the Tigard-Tualatin School Education Association, the Tigard-Tualatin Student Union and TTSD School Board Members Maureen Wolf and Ben Bowman.
With the COVID-19 pandemic showing little signs of easing, however, assistance of this nature is going to be needed into the future.
“CPAH says one of the biggest ongoing needs is gaining rental assistance,” Warren said. “We heard back some common themes. And when the moratorium is lifted, many residents are going to have outstanding balances that are going to be hard to get out from under.”
City Finance and Information Services Director Toby LaFrance told councilors this issue will be revisited started with the Oct. 3 Budget Committee meeting.
“We will come with some recommendations,” he said. “Additionally, we are preparing to do a special supplemental (budget) in the first and second quarter based on outcomes of budget meeting on October 3.”