By Agrippina Fadel
City commissioners in Tamarac have postponed using federal pandemic-relief funds to help homeless individuals, victims of domestic violence, and residents needing assistance with rent and home insurance.
The funds, allocated as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, are designed to support government recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, with Tamarac’s total allocation amounting to $10.9 million.
At the Jan. 23 workshop, Vice Mayor Marlon Bolton expressed the difficulty in finding time for discussions, given members’ busy schedules, including realtors, attorneys, principals, and tech executives.
Part of the city’s allocation, $897k, was proposed for housing stability projects for the homeless, roof and windows assistance for single-family homes, rental assistance, and housing for victims of domestic violence.
While commissioners had doubts about parts of the proposal for ARPA funds, Mayor Michelle Gomez still hoped to approve other items on the budget, saying that if some of the projects are approved at the workshop, the city can get working on helping people.
“There might be some other items where we want [to allocate] more money, so it’s not fair to go line by line,” said Commissioner Morey Wright. “We haven’t sat down to discuss where we are going to allocate it.”
Gomez answered that if commissioners approve the funds for other programs, the money can be spent, and the city can always reallocate additional funds “so we can at least start helping people.”
“We don’t have to hold up the funds,” she said. “I have no problem putting [the discussion] on hold. But I don’t want to wait much longer. The longer we wait, there will be more people we are going to have to help.”
Daniel said she wants the time to look into Women in Distress, which would get part of the $50K of the ARPA budget.
“Do the women and children in Tamarac who are being abused go to Women in Distress? I don’t know. So I want to put everything on hold and take my time and go see because there might be other nonprofits out there that help the citizens. I don’t want to rush,” she added.
Despite the commission’s concerns and doubts about the proposed budget, Mayor Michelle Gomez hopes to approve other items and start helping people. However, Bolton and Commissioners Daniel and Morey Wright believe the budget requires more discussion and want to take their time to review it.
Bolton plans to bring the discussion back in March, but Mayor Gomez wants the matter addressed sooner.
Gomez reminded him that the commission only has workshops on the fourth Wednesday of the month, so it will be two months before the matter comes in front of the members again.
“We are not helping people. Why can’t we ask the staff to bring it back to us as soon as possible?” she said.
“I can answer that,” said Daniel. “Because no one worked with me on my calendar, [items are] just placed on there.”
“It is our obligation if you haven’t been told this,” retorted Gomez, igniting a back-and-forth argument with Daniel. “We are all on this commission because we knew the job that we were fighting for when we went through the election process. Understandably, the new commissioners will be adjusting their schedules. It is a balancing act, but our focus is here,” Gomez added.
“Let us take our time and have internal discussions,” said Bolton. “Let’s take the month of February, talk about that, and then maybe have a decision sometime in March. Or April…or May.”
The city staff is working on a new budget for the ARPA funds, but it is unclear when the commission will have a chance to discuss it again. In the meantime, Tamarac residents in need of assistance may have to wait before receiving help from federal funds.
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- Agrippina Fadel grew up in Siberia and received her master's in journalism from Tyumen State University. Agrippina is also a writer and editor at Draftsy.net. She has been a US resident for over ten years and speaks English and Russian.
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