Bloomington City Council members who pushed for direct assistance for residents who suffered flood damage this summer said the low number of applicants to a state program probably doesn’t fully explain the scope. of damage.
In September, the city council vehemently refused to provide direct assistance to residents whose basements were flooded with raw dirt or suffered other flood damage. Instead, the council chose to look at how great the need is for a state program that offers forgivable loans of up to $ 45,000.
Three weeks into the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) program, only a small fraction of the 500 Bloomington residents who reported being injured applied for assistance.
City council member Mollie Ward, who represents most of northwest Bloomington in Ward 7, pushed for the city to fund the aid on its own. He worries that the number may be misleading. “That’s precisely my concern, that people will say we haven’t used up the IHDA funds so therefore we really don’t have a problem. I don’t think that’s true, ”Ward said.
The city launched the program nearly four months after the storms. Ward said many residents probably can’t afford to wait on that fund, so they lent themselves and it’s too late for them to apply now.
“How about people who can’t afford that job, what do they do when it gets cold,” Ward said. “For people who have done, I don’t know, run a credit card bill or something like that, how they’re going to pay for that.”
Monica Enriquez of IHDA’s Single Family Rehabilitation (SFR) program, confirmed that IHDA does not pay for work already done. He said the city received $ 100,000 as additional funding for funding assistance. He said only about three residents will likely be assisted because any approved funds would need to be enough to make the home livable again.
Katherine Murphy, the City of Bloomington’s communications and outdoor affairs manager, said 61 residents who applied in advance for funding will submit an application in Nov. $ 250,000 for the SFR program, or another form of housing assistance.
City council member Jamie Mathy, who represents South-central Bloomington’s Ward 1, said it was likely that some residents failed to meet income requirements, and messaging with the phrases “100-year- flood ”and“ Act of God ”as a way to deny insurance may discourage some from applying for claims.
“Messaging has never been a strong point of any municipality,” Mathy said. “People heard something, clung to it and didn’t let it go, even if you were trying to explain why it happened. We all know there was only a ton of rain.”
Some critics of the council plan have suggested it may not be legal to provide direct relief to residents, a concern also raised by the city administration.
“I’m looking at the Illinois constitution and it seems like it only allows the use of public funds for public purposes. I’m really worried about using public tax dollars in an aid fund,” the council member said. of Ward 9 (northeast Bloomington) Tom Crumpler when the council voted 4-3 against direct relief, instead chose to see how great the need for assistance through the IHDA and other programs was.
Ward 8 (southeast Bloomington) council member Jeff Crabill suggested the city model its help after what Gibson City did to help residents who suffered flood damage there this summer. The Ford County community provided $ 250,000 in emergency funding to a foundation to distribute for the renovation.
“I just see it as more support for the position we’ve taken to help residents who have no other resources,” Crabill said.
Ward said he wants to see the full scope of the damage to see what the city should fund. He said the city has not yet produced that data.
Mathy said he did not believe there was enough support on the council for direct assistance. “I want to see us do more. I don’t think we have the votes to make that happen, ”he said, adding he was away at a funeral during the meeting in September when the council narrowly voted against direct funding.
Ward 6, which covers parts of downtown and southwest Bloomington, was unrepresented at the time. New council member De Urban did not say if he supports direct assistance. He declined WGLT’s request for an interview.
The city council’s recent 5-4 vote on appointing the Urban split was largely along ideological lines. Progressives opposed her appointment to serve in Ward 6 for the last 18 months of Jenn Carrillo’s term. Carrillo resigned from the council in August.
Crabill cast one of the “no” votes, but said the non-partisan council has not yet fallen into partisan camps on every issue.
“I would not say that voting is a bit blocked. You’ll see some people moving in different directions based on the issue they’re facing, ”Crabill said.