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Non-profit group argues Lafayette should use grant money for housing, not businesses forced to close

Non-profit group argues Lafayette should use grant money for housing, not businesses forced to close
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Posted at 10:55 PM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 23:55:38-04

"We have to be very strategic in how we use those funds and make sure that we're placing it to our highest priority of needs in ways that can make the largest impact," said Acadiana Regional Coalition Executive Director, Leigh Rachal.

Concern amid a proposal to use a Housing of Urban Development grant to help out small business, instead of non-profits for housing programs.

Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory is defending that proposal, but we're getting a better sense of the housing needs brought on by the pandemic.

At stake, nearly $853,000 from a "Community Development Block Grant, and with record unemployment, there is widespread need and now a debate about where that money should go.

Housing is being impacted by the pandemic. Since the stay-at-order was issued on March 23rd, 232-HELP has fielded more than one-thousand (1,051) calls for homeless assistance and shelter requests.

"Based on unemployment rates and the increase that we have seen in the numbers of people that are filing for unemployment and also based on the numbers just in Lafayette. The Mayor-President
has been making some statements about 5,000 households who are currently scheduled for utility disconnections. So using those as an estimate to ascertain how many families are struggling right now. I think we need to be bracing for a huge increase," said Rachal.

With that in mind, Leigh Rachal, the Executive Director of the Acadiana Regional Coalition on Homelessness and Housing, or ARCH, says the funds should go toward housing needs, but Mayor-President Josh Guillory is defending the proposal, saying small businesses need help.

"We have businesses that have been forced to close and have no where else to go. So this is a rare opportunity where we can take federal funding get it through the Office of Community Development and go directly to those small business employers which has a domino effect," said Guillory.

According to "ARCH", a hold on evictions, foreclosures and utilities disconnections are staving off disaster for now, but warns more trouble could be coming "close to home."

"I don't think it'll benefit the community enough if we put that towards small businesses. I think we need to utilize our HUD and CBDG funds to assist low and moderate income households with paying their rent and paying their utilities. That needs to be the priority.," said Rachal.

The Lafayette City and Parish Councils will consider the proposal at a special meeting Tuesday. If the councils approve, it goes to HUD for final approval.

Meanwhile, we reached out to Congressman Clay Higgins, who helped secure the grant. He says it can be used in a variety of response efforts, and the city does have discretion over how to use the funding.

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