The Inglewood city council approved setting a Public Hearing to receive public comment for new additional rent relief funds received under the CARES Act to assist renters pay back owed rent. The council voted 4-0 to hold the public hearing at 2pm on October 20.
On August 11 Mayor James T. Butts introduced an initiative to create two programs using funds provided for under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act from the U.S. Treasury Department and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Coronavirus housing funds.
The mayor initially proposed the Rent Relief Program, from CDBG CV funds, to provide funding for payment of two months of back owed rent for certain Inglewood renters.
The city estimated that there were nearly 20,000 eligible residents who could potentially benefit from the programs, and who would be selected based on a lottery.
Despite the city’s alleged outreach efforts, a dismal amount of applications were received.
The staff report dated September 29, 2020, stated the Rent Relief program was aimed at providing relief for between 200-300 households, yet the city only received 275 applications. Instead of using the additional $1,035,671 to help a potential additional 200-300 renters, the CDBG department requested to give the original applicants an additional month of rental assistance.
Mayor Butts reduced the total number of applications received during his closing comments.
“We had 248 people apply for the rent relief which pays up to three months rent” said Butts. “1278 people applied for our Debit Card Program and will receive a benefit of $1000 up from $500.”
Butts’ explanation confused those watching the meeting who recall the staff report detailing the city was fronting $1,275,000 from the General Fund, for the Debit Card program, until it received separate funding from the Treasury Department.
Inglewood was initially approved for CDBG CV housing funds in the amount of $827,507 and a second round of funding in the amount of $1,035,671 was awarded to the city September 11 for a total of $1,863,178.
The city’s plan for the money is to give rent relief applicants an additional month of back rent paid, for a total of three month’s.
The purpose of the public hearing is to give the members of the public an opportunity to provide feedback on how they want the funds spent, however, due to the recent reports of the mayor’s retaliation against former Budget Manager Barbara Ohno, his ex-girlfriend Melanie McDade, countless other former female employees, and now Treasurer Wanda Brown, residents are skeptical about speaking out in fear of Butts.
“I was afraid to tell my story but I see my complaints to HUD, about my situation with the city of Inglewood, have resulted in me being blocked from every program in this city,” said Sheila Scott. “I’m over65 and 69% of my body is injured so I qualify for the rent relief.”
She shared she spoke with an Inglewood housing advisory member and thought she would be taken care of.
“Ms. Scott is a nice lady and I referred her to the Inglewood Housing Authority and thought they took care of her,” said Odest Riley Jr., who was appointed to the advisory board by Mayor James T. Butts Jr. “I really hope they can help her.”
Community members canvassed the city, to provide forms for residents to complete and submit to the CDBG department but remarked residents were hesitant to submit their personal information in fear of the mayor.
“The most unfortunate thing we found are people are not comfortable with this government and fear of retaliation of Butts,” said Billion Godsun, with the Africa Town Coalition. “With 20,000 rentals, way more people than 1,000 need the assistance.”
No explanation was given for the discrepancy in the number of applications that were received. Community members questioned the council’s intention to hold the public hearing in the middle of the day.
“I’m questioning why the public hearing, on this rent relief program, is being held during a time when people are at work and instead set aside an evening meeting to ensure more residents can participate in how the funds will be spent,” said Rick Ford, with the Lennox Inglewood Tenants Union.
The city declined to extend the application deadline, and made no adjustments to the time of the hearing.
The city will accept written comments from October 13 – October 20 on how the funds in the amount of $1,035,671 will be spent. Comments can be mailed certified to the attention of Damian Pipkins, City of Inglewood, CDBG Division, 1 W. Manchester Blvd. #750, Inglewood, CA 90301, by fax to 310-330-5756 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The city has until December 30, 2020, to expend all funds received under the CARES Act.