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News / Clark County News

Vancouver seeks comment on American Rescue Plan grant proposals

$2.49 million to be distributed to aid homeless programs

By Carlos Fuentes, Columbian staff writer
Published: February 8, 2023, 5:27pm

A $2.49 million grant given to Vancouver to support affordable housing and homeless populations is one step closer to being distributed after a year-and-a-half wait.

The grant comes from a $5 billion American Rescue Plan package for homelessness and affordable housing services. It will mostly go toward rental assistance and homeless supportive services, such as behavioral health treatment and employment and education programs.

The city published its allocation plan Feb. 1 and is seeking public comment, before the city council votes to approve it Feb. 27.

“Our application process every year for our regular (Community Development Block Grant) and HOME funds starts in October and then is awarded in March. So by the time we got these surveys (in 2021) out, we were already in the middle of that process, and we decided to push it forward to the next award funding process. And that is why it has taken a long time,” said Samantha Whitley, housing programs manager for the city of Vancouver.

City staff created the plan based on a survey sent out to more than 300 stakeholders in October 2021 requesting comments on how to best allocate the grant.

Eighty-five percent of the funds are slated for supportive services and the remaining 15 percent for administrative fees. Supportive services includes behavioral health treatment, child care, employment services, outreach services and food assistance, Whitley said.

“Support services can cover a lot of different things, and we know that our homeless population needs a wide variety of things. And we left that kind of open for the providers to put in the application what services they want to provide,” Whitley said.

The application period closed in December. Since then, a scoring committee has been reviewing and assigning scores to each organization that applied.

“Their scores will be finalized this week, and we will meet with them later this month to review scoring and proposed application funding,” Whitley said. After the committee makes its recommendations, it will draft its 2023 Annual Action Plan and advertise the proposed awards for public review.

Organizations with a low score may receive partial or no funding based on availability, the allocation plan states.

There will be a public hearing Feb. 27, followed by the council’s vote. Next, the city will submit the final action plan in March to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Whitley anticipates the city will begin awarding grants by the end of spring.

Columbian staff writer