Clallam commissioners: Rental, utility relief top priorities

CARES Act funding split between agencies

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commissioners have agreed to distribute $200,000 in federal COVID-19 relief funds for rental assistance and utility relief.

The initial allocation of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding will be split among the Clallam County Public Utility District, city of Port Angeles and Olympic Community Action programs (OlyCAP), commissioners said Monday.

Clallam County received $4.18 million in CARES Act funding to support needs related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Much of that has been spent on public health staffing and information technology infrastructure, county officials said.

Clallam County has about $1.3 million in remaining CARES Act funding to be used in six priority areas — public health, business support, rental and utility assistance, support for the homeless population, child care and food security.

“Obviously, we’re going to be effectively operating like a bank,” county Chief Financial Officer Mark Lane told commissioners Monday.

“I think we have adequate reserves to be able to do this.”

Commissioners Monday said they would make a $200,000 allocation for residential rental assistance and utility relief.

They also agreed to spend $200,000 to support the homeless population during COVID-19.

“We’re obviously going to be making significant allocations in this arena,” Board Chairman Mark Ozias said.

Previously, commissioners had agreed to distribute $200,000 in CARES Act funding to the Clallam County Economic Development Council (EDC) to support local businesses, $110,000 to nonprofit child care providers and $60,000 for the purchase of two cold storage units to enhance food security.

The city of Port Angeles established a COVID-19 relief program that began with $250,000 in general fund contingencies for utility relief, and $87,000 in sales tax revenue and Community Development Block Grants for residential rental assistance.

City officials have said the funding would likely run out because of high demand.

Clallam County Public Utility District General Manager Doug Nass said the PUD also was interested in providing CARES Act funding for utility relief.

“There is a need, a definite need, and we hope we can participate in this,” Nass told county commissioners Monday.

“Right now, there is no other opportunities for relief other than the CARES Act that the county is talking about.”

The Peninsula Daily News and OlyCAP have temporarily converted the Peninsula Home Fund to collect donations to help neighbors impacted by layoffs, recession or illness and who are unable to pay bills because of COVID-19.

Cherish Cronmiller, OlyCAP executive director, told commissioners the Home Fund had raised more than $300,000.

“We’ve spent down over half of that at this point, and a majority of that is going to rental assistance,” Cronmiller said.

Commissioner Randy Johnson said there was an “immediate need” for residential utility relief and rental assistance.

“I don’t have the allocation for PUD, city of Port Angeles and OlyCAP, but certainly it needs to get out to all those people,” Johnson said.

CARES Act funding for businesses will be directed through the EDC.

“We’ll have to put a lot more shape around this as the weeks unfold,” Ozias said, “but, generally speaking, we’re hoping that all of the business relief funds, including utility and rental assistance, will work through the process that the EDC is managing.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

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