Fairfax County will receive an additional $34 million to provide emergency rental assistance to residents experiencing economic challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a budget policy committee meeting yesterday (Tuesday), Fairfax County Department of Management and Budget Director Christina Jackson told the county board of supervisors that the department has submitted a certification for the award, and the amount is expected to be confirmed today.
The money comes from a $25 billion emergency rental assistance program that the U.S. Treasury Department established using funds from the COVID-19 relief package that Congress passed at the end of December.
“This will be huge,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “I know we feel good about it, but obviously, there are a lot of folks out there struggling, and this will be a great opportunity to help those folks.”
Under the treasury program, renters may be eligible to receive assistance if at least one or more people in their household has experienced financial hardship due to the pandemic, are at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability, or have a household income at or below 80% of the area median income.
Applicants can receive up to 12 months of assistance, with the possibility of an additional three months if needed to ensure housing stability and funds are still available.
The treasury is allocating the funds directly to states and local governments with more than 200,000 residents.
Jackson says the treasury is required to disperse all of the program funds by the end of January, so the county should have “dollars in hand” by the end of the month.
“We’re working with staff to try to incorporate this funding with other awards that we’ve received to make sure we’re using all the resources to our advantage,” Jackson said.
Because of the incoming grant, the Fairfax County Department of Management and Budget is recommending that the county increase its COVID-19 grants reserve by $50 million as part of its Fiscal Year 2021 mid-year budget review.
To offset anticipated revenue losses, the county plans to take $9.1 million out of a general fund reserve that the board of supervisors set up in May to support its coronavirus response efforts.
If the adjustment is approved, the COVID-19 reserve will have $16 million remaining, including roughly $12 million that the county mostly plans to use for Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursements.
As part of the mid-year review, Fairfax County staff are also recommending that the county create 13 new positions in the health department to boost its pandemic response, especially when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccination program. The positions would be initially covered by federal stimulus funds.
“We’re in constant contact with the health department relative to the continuous pivoting in response to COVID,” Fairfax County Chief Financial Officer Joe Mondoro said. “There are a number of other activities that they’re undertaking to respond to…whether that’s the need for additional contact tracers, whether that’s the escalation of the vaccination requirements.”
The board of supervisors will hold a public hearing and take action on the FY 2021 budget mid-year review when it meets on Jan. 26.
Photo via Fairfax County government/Facebook