Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Irving steps up its Covid financial assistance to residents and businesses

By Fatema Biviji
NDG Special Contributor

The City of Irving held a Work Session meeting on August 20, 2020 in which updates on Covid-19 and the City’s response to it were shared with city council.

A report by the city’s Emergency Management department conveyed that there was only one Covid-19 active case among Irving’s nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Members of city council expressed concern, however, about recent reports citing a large volume of dated Covid-19 positive cases being reported with current active cases in the area.

There was concern for how the addition of these dated cases would affect the accuracy in reporting the current pandemic situation in Irving. The EM representative explained that the City assesses the severity of the pandemic based on current ICU bed and ventilator availability. He also went on to explain that the backlog of positive Covid-19 cases came from testing sites that did not report directly to Dallas County and were held up due to clerical errors.

The city council also received an update on how federal funds from the CARES Act are being administered. The city is able to proactively reach out to Childcare Centers that are registered in Irving to alert them of the assistance that is available to them. So far, the city has received around 18 applications from a pool of 124 eligible childcare providers. The city is also working on administering funds to help residents pay for childcare. The anticipated start date for this program is August 28.

Emergency assistance is also being offered by the city to small businesses. Dallas County will be the third-party administrator. The city has launched a vigorous marketing campaign with the help of both chambers of commerce, the Study, and ICTN to inform small business owners of the emergency assistance program. Pre-screening for small businesses to apply for emergency assistance with the City of Irving is from August 24 – September 6. The Study plans to offer technological assistance to small businesses that need help organizing the financial documentation to apply. For more information, visit the program’s page at the city’s website.

The city offers housing, mortgage, and utility assistance through third party administrator, Catholic Charities Dallas (CCD). The assistance program began on Aug. 1 and has received 269 applications. Of those received, 183 were incomplete, 86 were complete, and four applications were approved resulting in a 4.65% approval rate. CCD was asked why the approval rate was so low. CCD informed that most of the denied applicants (about 90%) fall below the current Area Median Income threshold of 81% set by the city. The city has set a requirement of 81 – 120 % AMI to qualify for assistance. The city’s initial reasoning behind setting this requirement was that Dallas County offers assistance to those who are in the below 81% AMI category. Historically, the 81 – 120% AMI category of income earners has been under-served, hence the city set the income requirement accordingly.

However, the low application approval rate is leading to the following proposed program changes: lowering the AMI requirements to include households making less than 120% AMI, provide up to six months of assistance instead of three months, ease residency requirements to include those who moved to Irving after March 1, 2020 and have lived in the city for at least two months. The proposed changes are believed to increase the pool of eligible applicants and thereby help the residents of Irving who are most in need. According to an August 21, 2020 posting on the city’s website, the proposed changes have already been implemented. For more information, visit the city’s website.

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