LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — Lafayette’s mayor-president defended his administration’s decision to use federal money to assist small businesses affected by COVID-19 rather than to use it for the area’s growing homelessness problem.
Lafayette Consolidated Government received an $850,000 Community Development Block Grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to help with costs associated with COVID-19. Last week, Mayor-President Josh Guillory announced his intentions to break up that money into grants ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 for small businesses affected by the virus’ closures. Today, Guillory announced that the Lafayette Economic Development Authority has added an additional $200,000 into the pot, raising the available amount of money to over $1 million. LEDA will also help with the grant selection process.
Guillory responded today to criticism that the money should be used to help people whose housing has become unstable due to the virus. He noted that the businesses his grants are intended to help were shut down by the government and have not otherwise received help from federal aid. He noted that grant recipients would be employers of low- to moderate-income workers and/or minority-owned businesses. He argued that these businesses have no other recourse, as where the non-profits and/or organizations committed to the housing crisis have other options to raise income.
“They can write grants, they can raise money in the form of private donations, they can enlist the help of larger non-profits,” said Guillory.
Guillory pointed out that up to 87% of the parish’s 25,000 businesses were forced to close under an government emergency declaration. He targeted 2,842 businesses that could be eligible for the grant money.
“If we include the employees, suppliers, and customers of these businesses, we’re talking about tens of thousands of people who are directly impacted by their closure,” said Guillory.
He compared that instead to the number of people being helped by the Acadiana Regional Coalition on Homelessness (ARCH) — 250 people. Guillory did note, however, that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, ARCH was assisting only 60 people. So far, only one homelessness non-profit had expressed interest in the grant money and wished to use it to hire more people.
Guillory said he is continuing to fill the board for the grant committee and that anyone who wishes to help LEDA with the grant process should call 311, option 2.