WATERVILLE — Municipal employees are to receive bonus checks before Christmas if the Waterville City Council on Monday approves using federal COVID-19 relief funding for that purpose.

The special, virtual-only meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Those wanting to tune in can watch the Zoom meeting through a link on the city’s website.

Councilors are scheduled to take two votes: One vote to authorize transferring American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, money to the city’s general fund. The other vote to approve using $150,000 for city employee bonuses for work they have done during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Jay Coelho asked that the special meeting be held to ensure employees receive the bonus checks before Christmas.

At a council meeting Tuesday, councilors took a final vote to give $400,000 in relief funds to the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, with $200,000 of that to go to a master leasing program, $155,000 to diversion and $45,000 to a year’s worth of case management.

City Council Rebecca Green, D-Ward 4, a member of the city’s ARPA Advisory Committee, which is exploring uses for the relief money, said the decision to spend the $400,000 emerged from discussions between the city, including the general assistance program, homeless shelter, Kennebec Valley Community Action Program and other groups in response to urgent needs for supporting the homeless this winter.

“It does not provide funding for an emergency shelter, but rather is aimed at prevention and longer-term stabilization,” Green wrote Friday in an email. “It will be administered by the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, but will also support people served by other agencies, such as general assistance, KVCAP and others.”

Of the $400,000, $200,000 would go to a master leasing program to enable rapid rehousing and working with landlords to provide 20 units of housing for two years, according to Green. The homeless shelter would lease directly with landlords and provide housing stabilization support to clients with rental assistance.

The program would provide greater incentives and protection for landlords to rent to low-income tenants and provide them education, according to Green.

The $155,000 in diversion funds would be used for a year to help find solutions for people in housing crises, including using natural supports, such as family and friends, to house them.

The money also would fund additional training for other agencies, including general assistance, KVCAP and Kennebec Behavioral Health, to provide a coordinated response to homelessness and a “one call” system, Green said.

The $45,000 would be used for case management for a year. Case managers would work with 25 households to provide services for those receiving funding through general assistance or other avenues for temporary housing, according to Green.

Waterville has yet to spend about $1.1 million in COVID-19 relief funds, according to officials.

The Rev. Maureen Ausbrook, who runs Starfish Village Ministry, an organization of the Waterville United Church of Christ that helps stabilize families, has long urged the city to help fund a warming shelter and a place where people can get hot meals, especially since the Sacred Heart Soup Kitchen closed last year.

“Waterville is in dire need of a true emergency overnight winter shelter,” Ausbrook said Saturday. “It is only a matter of time before someone freezes to death. COVID has shattered our previously rather thinly woven-together system of meals programs, and now we are in extreme need of a serious meals program.”

Ausbrook, who is also moderator for the Waterville-Winslow Interfaith Council, said she believes the process for giving $400,000 to the homeless shelter was flawed, and while there might have been discussions with various agencies, “that is no substitute for careful review of multiple proposals submitted together so that taken as a whole, they can be appropriately compared and contrasted and provide an overview of how many other agencies and services exist as a whole.”

“Further, those discussions left out important others,” Ausbrook said. “I know that neither our local Interfaith Council nor Starfish Village, both substantive providers of emergency care, as well as some other muscular service providers, were not consulted nor asked to submit any proposal.”

Ausbrook said the $400,000 designated for the homeless shelter will not provide a daily, sit-down meals program or alleviate the “daily suffering of many unsheltered people unable to be served by the (Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter) — people my ministry, Starfish Village, deals with daily.”

The City Council took a final vote Tuesday to earmark $50,000 for the Waterville Police Department’s Operation HOPE program for a year. The program helps place people addicted to opioids into treatment facilities. The original request was for $250,000 — $50,000 for the next five years, but councilors chose to fund only one year for now.

At a meeting Dec. 3, the city’s ARPA committee endorsed the proposals and a revised proposal to provide premium pay to city workers on a more equitable basis — flat bonuses, as opposed to those tied to wages, according to Green.

She said the ARPA committee is finalizing a process for other agencies to submit applications for the remaining $1.1 million. The process is expected to be ready in early 2022.

Jennifer Johnson, chair of the ARPA committee, said the panel had not authorized the city employee bonuses. Instead, it authorized a replacement of funds lost, with no specific purpose attached.

“The committee was really not in favor of bonuses,” Johnson said, “but recognized the fact once given to the city they had the ability to spend as needed.”

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