The virtual Homestead City Council meeting on Wednesday May 27 was preceded by a Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) meeting. Homestead Council serves as the Board of the CRA.
Homestead’s CRA authorization expires in 2023 at the end of its thirty year term. The agency and its work can be extended if the County approves and HUD agrees. The CRA Board voted in February to hire a business firm to write the needs assessment for the application requesting an additional thirty year period.
To be approved, the CRA’s renewal application must find that blight and slum conditions persist in the target area. Florida Statute 163.340 (8) defines blighted area. Homestead’s CRA area meets eleven of fifteen criteria, according to the CRA Director.
To quantify the impact of the pandemic, the CRA conducted an online survey of local businesses in April. The survey was sent to 1213 businesses and 107
participated. The survey found a decrease in cash flow by 82% of businesses responding, a 50% revenue loss by 66%, and a significant need for rental and payroll assistance.
CRA staff recommended an emergency assistance grant program funded with $136,000 from Commercial Enhancement funds. Maximum $5000 grants must be used for operating expenses within thirty days, with priority given to businesses in the Historic Downtown and Southwest sections.
Eligibility requires businesses be located in the CRA area, experience a 50% revenue loss, and had applied unsuccessfully for SBA payroll protection loans or the Florida Economic Injury Disaster loans. Council accepted an amendment that their regular revenue could not exceed $500,000, and preference be given to businesses without prior CRA grants.
Councilmember Steve Shelley expressed concern that program administration could tax the system and impact staff time. He was concerned that grants be made within a reasonable time rather than weeks later when it was too late.
City Manager Cate McCaffrey said there was a plan in place considering the number of applications the City was likely to receive. She was confident staff could process expected applications in a timely fashion.
Mayor Steve Losner pointed out the grants were limited to the CRA area which formed about 40% of Homestead’s area.
CRA’s Director told Councilmember Erica Avila that the goal was to process the applications and release checks within one week of the program’s start.
Staff told the Mayor notice of the program would be released through emails to all businesses and through the City’s public information program on the City’s website. No electronic applications would be accepted because
original signatures and notarization were required, but submissions could be dropped at the CRA office between 10 AM and 3 PM beginning June 3.
A final CRA grant for rent and utility assistance was considered, funded with $75,000 from the residential façade program and $75,000 remaining from nonprofit grants. The one-time grants are limited to $1500. An applicant must show their job loss due to the pandemic, be a renter, and have a household
income below 60% of the area’s median income.
The CRA Direction said staff would verify with the County Clerk that no eviction proceedings were in process. A landlord receiving program monies must agree to stay any eviction proceeding for an additional sixty days.
All three CRA proposals on the agenda were approved unanimously. The subsequent Council meeting gave unanimous consent to submitting the CRA update amendment to the County.
Council’s agenda included an item to extend the nonprofit CDBG for next fiscal year. The plan in place included $111,000 in funding for SOS and New Hope nonprofits. However, the City determined other funding was available to finish the PAL gym project so it recommended advancing third and fourth place
applicants for funding.
Besides SOS and New Hope, the grants also would extend to Sunrise Community’s hurricane shutter project plus upgrades to The Movement’s Homestead Youth center.
The amended action plan must be submitted to HUD by August 15 of this year.
Councilmember Larry Roth spoke in favor of the use of excess space at the Cybrarium as temporary art gallery space. He asked staff to put together a plan for use of the facility on an interim basis for that purpose until a permanent plan was in place.
The City Manager said there was no HVAC service on the third floor. “We are seeking tenant build-out but there would be a cost to finish the space,” she said. “But the City is seeking grants that could be used for flex-space as an
A $1200 request for assistance from the new Military/Veteran Sailing Club was to fund the first year rental of a boat slip until other sources could be found. Council agreed to fund the one-time request to assist the veterans through
individual Councilmember accounts.
Prior to adjournment, Mayor Losner got Council approval for his appointment of Bradley Compton as vice chair of the Planning and Zoning Board.