Somerville Distributes $2.2 Million for Rental Assistance, Food Security, and Other Pandemic Supports

Nearly $1 million in additional job training/retention funds also approved

In response to the immense need for community assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Somerville has distributed $2,218,384 to local non-profit agencies to help residents with necessities such as rent, food, and childcare. The money is being distributed to people in need throughout Somerville via those non-profit agencies and referrals from the City’s Office of Housing Stability. In all, $1.825 million in CARES Act funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will go toward rental assistance, $152,000 toward food security, $65,000 toward childcare, and $176,000 will go toward additional needs including immigrant services, hygiene/personal care needs, senior care, and assistance for residents with disabilities. Nearly $1 million in additional funding from the City’s Job Creation and Retention Trust has also been approved to provide displaced and other workers with a variety of supports. 

“We have a public health crisis that has precipitated an economic crisis, and both of them are hitting the most vulnerable in our community the hardest,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “Thanks to our outstanding community partners who are working on the front lines, we will be able to provide immediate relief to so many who are hurting. We focused funding on rental assistance so that people can maintain the security of staying in their homes during these uncertain times and as a necessary public health measure. Yet I don’t want anyone to get the impression this has solved our problems. It has not. We are far from reaching the end of this ordeal and that will require further assistance. People are grappling with basics needs including housing, food, and health, and the most crucial step in recovering from this nightmare is aiding those whose need is greatest. We desperately need another federal aid package.” 

To access housing assistance supported via this funding, please contact the City’s Office of Housing Stability at somervillema.gov/ohs or call 617-625-6600 ext. 2581. Staff can ensure residents are also informed of additional supports and services. All other supports will be provided directly via the funded nonprofits through their usual service delivery. 

Non-profit recipients of CARES Act funds include: 

  • $970,000 to the Community Action Agency of Somerville 
  • $725,000 to the Somerville Homeless Coalition 
  • $95,000 to the Somerville Homeless Coalition’s Project SOUP initiative 
  • $75,000 to Respond, Inc. 
  • $70,000 to the Somerville Community Corporation 
  • $50,000 to the Just-A-Start Corporation 
  • $50,000 to the Somerville Community Schools Program 
  • $40,000 to the Welcome Project 
  • $20,000 to the Neighborhood Children’s Foundation 
  • $20,000 to the Somerville Partnership for Young Children 
  • $19,000 to the Somerville Hispanic Association for Community Development 
  • $15,000 to the Mission Church Shepherd’s Kitchen 
  • $15,000 to the Mystic Learning Center 
  • $15,000 to SCM Community Transportation 
  • $15,000 to the Somerville YMCA 
  • $13,610 to Community Cooks 
  • $10,000 to the Elizabeth Peabody House Association

Significant Investments in Workforce and Employment Programs

The City of Somerville’s Job Creation and Retention Trust (JCRT) has approved $968,162 for a variety of adult education and job training programs. The JCRT is funded by a jobs linkage fee collected by the City from large commercial development projects. This includes English language education, digital literacy classes, GED programs, and job skills training in a variety of fields including banking/finance, automotive maintenance, energy-efficient building maintenance, biomedical work, and entry-level information technology.

Community partners include Bunker Hill Community College, The Welcome Project, the Community Action Agency of Somerville, East Somerville Main Streets, the Somerville Center for Adult Learning Experiences, the Asian American Civic Association, the Somerville Community Corporation, Just-A-Start, Per Scholas, the Brazilian Workers Center, and the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Health and Safety. Workers also will be educated about their rights on the job along with how to spot and report wage theft. More information on these training programs can be found here.

“In this time of crisis, it is all the more important that the Somerville Job Creation and Retention Trust is accomplishing exactly what we envisioned when it was created: thoughtful, impactful investments in Somerville workers and job seekers that will not only benefit them and their families, but will help Somerville businesses hire skilled local workers,” said Mayor Curtatone. “I want to thank the trust for helping to meet the needs of this difficult time.”

“I couldn’t be more pleased with the work of the trust thus far, and I am excited to see the impact of the fund in the coming months, but I am especially proud of the trust’s dedication to its mission during this pandemic,” said Ward 4 Councilor Jesse Clingan, who represents the City Council on the JCRT. “The trust did not hesitate to spring into action and release emergency funding to local nonprofits providing critical help to residents who had lost jobs or needed employment, helping them to navigate their way through the process during a really stressful time. This has been a situation that none of us who pushed for the linkage fee could have expected, and I’m grateful the fund was ready and able to offer this vital assistance.”

This package of programs represents the first major investments made by the Job Creation and Retention Trust. Again, Jobs Linkage is a fee the City of Somerville collects on commercial real estate development. Established in late 2018, the Job Creation and Retention Trust has collected $1,363,754 in linkage payments. The Jobs Linkage fee currently stands at $2.58 a square foot with an exemption of 15,000 square feet.

Additional Tenant and Homeowner Resources; Eviction Moratoriums

In addition to seeking aid via the above new resources, tenants in need of emergency COVID-related assistance for unpaid rent, as well as homeowners currently in need of help with unpaid mortgage bills, can apply for assistance paying those bills through the Commonwealth’s RAFT program (Residential Assistance for Families in Transition). There are no immigration restrictions on receipt of RAFT benefits. Tenants and homeowners having difficulty accessing RAFT benefits can contact the City’s Office of Housing Stability at somervillema.gov/ohs to fill out a request for OHS assistance with those applications or call 617-625-6600 ext. 2581.

Residential tenants are also protected from evictions during the COVID-19 state of emergency in accordance with both City and State legislation. Commercial and nonprofit tenants in Somerville are also protected by the City’s eviction moratorium, which will remain in effect until the end of the emergency. But absent further action at the State level, any missed rent payments will still be due at the end of the moratorium. Where possible, tenants are encouraged to seek relief agreements with landlords and to develop payment plans. Contact the Office of Housing Stability for best practice suggestions.

You Can Help Too: Donate to the Somerville Cares Fund

The City continues to accept donations to the Somerville Cares Fund, which can be made at somervillema.gov/SomervilleCares. The fund provides rental, food and health assistance to those struggling to make ends meet, but is currently in need of a new infusion of donations as need has greatly outstripped available funds. All who are fortunate enough to have a little extra to spare are encouraged to support their neighbors via the fund.

 

For more information and regular COVID-19 updates, visit www.somervillema.gov/coronavirus and sign up for City alerts at www.somervillema.gov/Alerts. We urge you to sign up for every alert method you are able to receive: phone call, text, email. Also follow FB.com/SomervilleCity and twitter.com/somervillecity.