Summit County is told $1M grant helped ‘hundreds of community members’ avoid homelessness
Park City Community Foundation reports on grant’s success
Summit County granted the Park City Community Foundation $1 million last summer in federal coronavirus relief funding, an effort to stem the economic free fall officials feared might force families into homelessness and hunger.
On Wednesday, the County Council heard from the nonprofit’s community impact director that the money made a difference.
“Hundreds of community members were able to remain in their homes because of the relief efforts that you supported,” Diego Zegarra told the council.
Zegarra said that the foundation’s community response fund had raised $3.8 million to respond to the pandemic — including the $1 million donated by the county — and that it had given out $3.3 million of that, with the bulk going to fight housing insecurity.
County councilors lauded the nonprofit’s efforts.
“That’s a huge success story,” said Councilor Chris Robinson, noting the nearly $4 million donated so far. “Not just raising the money, but how you deployed it.”
The money donated by the county was enabled by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. A county official said the county granted $1 million from its own coffers, which were then replenished by CARES Act funding. That tactic enabled more flexibility in how the money was spent, something that Zegarra said allowed nonprofits to disperse money over a longer time period and budget for the future.
Zegarra said 39 applications requested more than $3.6 million from the committee that was set up to disperse the county’s grant. The nine committee members chose 18 nonprofits to receive funding, with Jewish Family Service receiving nearly half of the $1 million.
Much of the money from the larger pool of the foundation’s community response fund was given to two nonprofits: Jewish Family Service and the Christian Center of Park City.
“Without them, I don’t know if we would’ve been able to keep so many folks in their homes,” Zegarra told the council. He added that the two charities had supported 2,000 individuals during the pandemic, including some who lost work in the early months and had been receiving assistance since last year.
Renters have been protected by a federal eviction moratorium, an act that keeps people in their homes, but one that does not forgive debt and does not prevent landlords from starting the eviction process.
County Council Chair Glenn Wright asked the community foundation representatives whether there was enough rental assistance in the community to help people who might have unpaid rent debt.
“It’s relatively easy for a person with an eviction moratorium to just blow off the rent for a year and then you’re in a position where you can’t possibly get out of the hole,” Wright said. “Are you relatively confident we won’t have a tsunami of evictions when the moratorium goes away?”
Zegarra said he’d worked closely with local landlords and property managers during the pandemic, citing partnerships with County Councilor Roger Armstong and local nonprofit Mountain Mediation to open up lines of communication.
He couldn’t guarantee there wouldn’t be evictions, but said the county’s residents are in a good position.
“I don’t want to speak in absolutes, but I’m fairly confident that most families will be able to remain in their homes once the moratorium has been lifted,” he said.
Zegarra said that he’d had encouraging conversations recently with apartment complex property managers, some of whom reported no outstanding rent debt, while others indicated they were owed back rent, but in an amount that was “not insurmountable.”
The foundation is slated to deliver a final report to the council in August with more specific data about how the money was spent, and the help it offered.
Zegarra said the donations that have flowed into the community foundation since the pandemic hit have been staggering.
“When this first started happening Friday, March 13, of last year, and we flipped the switch to be able to raise dollars for the community response fund, we thought that maybe $100,000 was a significant figure,” he said. “Little did we know the level of generosity and how much folks would step up. … I look back now and it still blows my mind.”
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