Paterson earmarks $3.5M for aid for homeless residents instead of help for renters

·3 min read

PATERSON — City officials rejected a proposal to use $3.5 million in federal COVID-relief funds to help tenants pay back rent and instead will use the money for housing for homeless people.

That decision was part of the City Council’s 5-4 vote Tuesday night on how to spend Paterson’s $5.3 million allocation from the American Rescue Plan's Home Investment Partnership Program.

Several council members asserted that distributing the money for back rent for tenants who have fallen behind on their payments would be the best way to ensure that Paterson residents will be the ones who benefit from the federal relief money. They argued that many of the people who are considered homeless in Paterson had come to the city from other towns.

Some council members also objected to the use of almost $800,000 of the funding for consultants and hiring new city employees.

A statue of former mayor Andrew McBride stands before Paterson City Hall.
A statue of former mayor Andrew McBride stands before Paterson City Hall.

“That money should be put to use for people who are in need,” said Councilman Flavio Rivera.

During a lengthy, rambling public meeting discussion on how to use the money, six members of the council expressed displeasure with the plan presented by administration officials.

For example, Councilman Michael Jackson said he expected the administration to be irresponsible in handling the federal funds and Councilman Luis Velez said the money could end up being mismanaged. But Jackson and Velez ended up voting in favor of the plan, giving the administration the five-vote majority it needed.

“If they believe they’re going to mismanage these funds, you have until 2030 to make sure you don’t do it,” Velez said, citing the deadline for the use of the money.

Council members Al Abdelaziz and Lilisa Mimms expressed frustration that the administration didn’t comply with the council’s previous request that $3.5 million be used for pandemic rental assistance.

The city’s community development department director, Barbara Blake-McLennon, said federal guidelines would not allow the city to use the money to help people pay their rent. Abdelaziz and Mimms responded by reading sections of federal guidelines that they argued permitted the money to be spent for that purpose.

Developing news: Paterson suffers first fatal shooting of 2022

Ward map changes: Paterson redistricting plan will shift 4,400 residents to different wards

Under the adopted plan, $3.5 million will be used to provide up to $1,000 per month for 18 months for rent for 185 people who are currently homeless.

Another $1 million of the grant will be used to build or renovate 10 apartments that would be made available to individuals or families who are homeless. The city has not yet decided what projects would get that money, nor has it decided which two consultants it would hire with $265,000 of the funding.

Paterson plans to hire five new employees with the final $530,000, officials said. That includes one housing inspector, two project managers and two monitors for the federal funds. Officials said the grant would pay for those jobs through September 2029. Blake-McLennon said federal officials have recommended that local governments use part of the money for consultants and new employees because of the newness of the grant.

“The new staff will be responsible for monitoring the new HOME ARP grant activities as required by HUD, and the consultants will assist the city to prepare an acceptable action plan for the HOME ARP grant, and will also direct the city’s new staff to successfully administer the grant,” Blake-McLennon said.

Joe Malinconico is editor of Paterson Press.

Email: editor@patersonpress.com

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Paterson NJ tackles homelessness with American Rescue Plan funds

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting