Denison dedicates $150k to residential COVID-19 assistance programs

Staff Writer
Herald Democrat
The Denison City Council has dedicated $150,000 to assisting residents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Denison is dedicating $150,000 to assist residents financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The city announced last week that it will partnering with community non-profits for a new residential assistance program aimed at providing monetary relief during the pandemic.

“This is a unique opportunity for the city to partner with our local churches and non-proft organizations to assist Denison residents,” Mayor Janet Gott said. “There are many local organizations with existing programs in place which we can utilize rather than create a whole new program.”

To assist in distributing the funds, the city has partnered with: Lakeway Christian Community Resale Barn, the Salvation Army of Grayson County, Haven Chapel United Methodist Church, First Baptist Church, Park Avenue Church of Christ, Hopewell Baptist.

The program will be funded through a portion of the city’s allocation under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also known as CARES. Under the act, Denison was allocated $1.4 million to finance its response to the epidemic.

However, the language of the act allows the city to set aside a portion of its funding to assist local residents who have been affected by the pandemic.

Interim Community Engagement Manager Mara Yachimski said the organizations were chosen due to their existing programs, which gave them system to distribute the emergency funding.

“We wanted to make sure that the churches we chose already have a process in place and they have an application and a method like this before,” she said.

Yachimski said the city has been approached by residents who are seeking assistance during this difficult time. This primarily has been through the utility department.

“Our utility billing gets calls frequently by people who are unable to pay their utility bills,” she said, noting that some of the partner groups have worked with Denison previously on utility assistance.

The funding can be used to assist with rent and mortgage, utilities and other expenses directly related to the pandemic. As an example, Yachimski said funeral expenses related to COVID-19 would be covered.

In order to be eligible for the funds, the applicant must be a resident of Denison and be able to prove loss of income or unemployment due to the pandemic. In cases of rental and mortgage assistance, the applicant must also prove that they are at risk of foreclosure or eviction from being behind on payments.

Starting out, the city will initially release $50,000 for funding the program, with $100,000 held in reserve if the program proves to be effective.

The program represents an attempt by the city to utilize as much of the emergency funding as it can. Funds that are not used by the end of 2020 will be lost, under the terms of the act.

In May, city officials estimated that $450,000 in expenses directly related to COVID-19 and the city was uncertain how much of its allocation it would utilize.

Yachimski said the city has asked its departments to look into potential programs aimed at preventing the spread of the virus as a way to utilize the funding and also provide a public benefit.

“We are in the process of reviewing those projects to see which are good candidates for this funding,” she said.

Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com.