The council's March 10 decision, which passed in a 4-0 vote, with Vice Mayor Drew Combs absent, came just one day before the council voted in a special meeting to declare a "local emergency" in response to the spread of the coronavirus in the county.
The $112,000 funds had originally been designated for a tenant relocation assistance program overseen by Samaritan House, and initiated by the council in March 2019. However, after Samaritan House's Assistant Director for Programs and Services Latrice Taylor presented a program update at the meeting, the council's discussion quickly shifted to redirecting the funds toward coronavirus response.
Speaking to The Almanac, City Attorney Cara Silver explained the concept behind the council's decision, saying the funds will be "used by the Samaritan House for assisting low-income residents, such as hourly workers, who suffer economic hardship due to the coronavirus outbreak response. These funds were originally designated for the Samaritan House to use for tenant relocation assistance, but now they are being re-purposed for coronavirus response. Helping low-income residents avoid evictions for non-payment of rent will be a priority."
During the meeting Councilman Ray Mueller said that he anticipates economic impacts from the inevitable coronavirus spread, leaving low-income people at risk. "We have this fund already set aside, and I think people are going to need it," he said.
While the economic aid funds will come from the city of Menlo Park, they will be administered by Samaritan House.
The Samaritan House's Taylor said that residents seeking economic assistance in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak can contact Samaritan House directly by calling (650) 347-3648.
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