On Tuesday, the City Council approved a resolution to amend the Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus Response Subsistence Program Agreement. This program awarded the City $511,964 to assist residents affected by the covid pandemic with their mortgages, utilities and rent.
Council agreed to amend the agreement and reallocate unused portions of money to an alternative community project to rehabilitate Wasco's Sheriff Activities League Youth Center.
There is a deadline of October 2023 for the city to use the funds. If not, it will be refunded to the State CDBG program.
According to a staff report, as of Aug. 31, the city and Self-Help Enterprises have been able to provide rent, mortgage and/or utility assistance to 38 households in Wasco, expending $98,100.70 of the funds awarded.
Self-Help Enterprises is a nationally recognized community development organization whose mission is to work together with low-income families to build and sustain healthy homes and communities. Since 1965, Self-Help Enterprises' efforts have touched the lives of over 55,000 families.
City staff has been working with Self Help, and there have been efforts to promote the Covid relief program to the community; however, it continues to be undersubscribed. At this rate, it is not expected to be fully utilized within the community.
With funds reallocated to the youth center, the center will provide activities for at-risk youth living within the City of Wasco. The project is anticipated to cost $429,135.
"We won't know the exact cost until the project begins. If there is a deficit, the City Council would then have to approve funding from the general fund," Assistant City Manager Maria Lara said.
City Manager Scott Hurlbert commented, "The redirection of these funds will ensure maximum benefit to the City of Wasco, and the Sheriff's activity league building will benefit the youth of Wasco and provide them a safe environment for a variety of after-school programs."
To address the shift of money awarded, Lara noted that there are numerous other programs available to help residents with their mortgage, rent or utilities, including through CAPK (Community Action Partnership of Kern) and the California Mortgage Relief Program.
The formal amended paperwork will be submitted to the State CDBG program administrators before the end of the month, and approval is expected shortly thereafter.
Also, at the meeting, a certificate of recognition was presented to the Wasco Bengals Football organization.
Area Representative Gonzalo Cruz said, "It is an honor to be recognized by the City of Wasco for our service to our community. The Bengals organization has dedicated its time and values to service the youth in our community for the last 29 years,"
He added, "I believe this is a great experience for our athletes to see that serving our community is as important as playing football and that hard work will be recognized."
Sergeant Charles Shinn of Kern County Sheriff's Office reported on crime statistics from August to September. Calls for service went from 710 to 715, total arrests went from 64 to 52, citations (traffic/parking) went from 24 to 19, patrol checks went from 68 to 52 and narcotic-related cases went from 14 to 15.
Sergeant Shinn also shared his frustration with gun possession and gun violence cases among the juveniles in Wasco.
He said, "We need to do something to get our youth on a better path because resorting to different groups is leading them to a dangerous path, resulting in gun violence."
Sergeant Shinn continued, "We need to do something to slow the violence, especially with our youth."