While other cities have been hesitant to spend federal funding related to the pandemic, Peoria aggressively launched programs to help residents and businesses.
The AZCares Fund filtered $440 million of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) money to cities and towns.
Peoria received just over $20 million, about $9 million less than Glendale.
But Peoria has been much quicker to distribute portions of those funds than Glendale and other cities.
According to information on the AZCares Fund, “The direct allocations must be used on payroll expenses related to an entity’s public health and public safety expenses from March 1 through Dec. 30.”
When he released the money months ago, however, Gov. Doug Ducey said he wanted cities to have “maximum flexibility” in the way they used their CARES funds.
In June, when Ducey made the announcement, Peoria Mayor Cathy Carlat said, “This funding from the AZCares Fund will help Peoria get dollars where they are needed most.
“My thanks to Gov. Ducey for his work to streamline this funding so we can put it to use quickly and efficiently.”
Carlat was good to her word, as Peoria residents impacted by COVID-19 can receive up to $500 per month to assist with their utility bills and up to $1,500 per month to assist with their rent or mortgage up to three months.
As of mid-December, the city of Peoria spent just over $100,000 to assist residents, with 109 homes receiving $26,000 in utility assistance and 39 families receiving $74,000 for rent/mortgage assistance, according to Kristina Perez, a city spokeswoman.
The program started Oct. 1 and will run until funds are exhausted, according to the city. For more information, contact the Peoria Community Assistance Program office at 623-979-3911 ext. 405 or visit peoriaaz.gov/
The city also has an information and referral helpline for COVID-19 assistance at 623-773-7770 (or email firstname.lastname@example.org).
As Lisa Mattox, coordinator of Peoria’s Community Assistance Program, put it, “These are kind of crazy times, but we’re all doing the best we can.”
She noted her department started doing outreach in the early days of the pandemic.
“We got on board making sure we were providing resources to people as quickly as possible,” she said.
“We started making phone calls to group homes and assisted living (facilities), making sure they had supplies and knew we were looking out for them.”
Mattox said 1,000 people have called the helpline.
“People are wanting to know about COVID testing, a lot of people have lost their jobs and are in need of utility and rental assistance,” she said. “We’ve been able to make that connection. We were very fortunate to receive some CARES money.”
The money came to the city at just the right time.
“It’s been really hard times for some people,” said Mattox. “We’ve definitely seen an increase in people reaching out for assistance—people who are about to be put out of their homes, people who have lost their homes.”
Though the city phones have been ringing steadily, “It’s not all bad,” Mattox noted.
“We are finding that even though it’s hard times and a lot of people who typically travel are not able to do that, although that’s sad, we’ve had some good things come out of that.
“We had a Vistancia resident who was not able to travel (due to pandemic restrictions) call and say, ‘I want to use my money I would typically use for vacation to help people. How can I do that?’”
A Peoria Community Assistance Program partner helped the Vistancia woman sponsor a family of six, with a single, working mother.
The woman’s donation “made their holidays,” Mattox said.