By Mike Hazlip –
Although a brand new $900 billion stimulus package has been passed by congress, a local stimulus program for restaurants was discontinued on Dec. 31, after a vote by the Citrus Heights City Council recently.
With reluctance and some reservations, the council voted unanimously to finish the program aimed at keeping restaurants open by providing meals to seniors, citing delayed reimbursement in the federal level as the cause. The “Great Plates Delivered” program was funded by primarily by FEMA, with local implementation of the program through participating cities, including Citrus Heights.
General Services Department Manager Chris Myers outlined the fiscal obligations for that city in a presentation to the council on Dec. 10. Myers said the city had invested over $2 million within the program, expecting quick reimbursement from FEMA.
The city was spending $80,000 each week among the six participating restaurants, based on Myers. The Great Plates Delivered initiative allowed restaurants to receive up to $66 per-person, per-day for providing three daily meals, including delivery. FEMA provided reimbursement of 75% of the funds, with CalOES providing 18.75% and the remaining 6.25% matched by the city — however the city was required to front the money.
The program provided 97,900 meals since May with about 3,500 meals being delivered every week, according to Myers. In December, there were about 169 people receiving meals with every restaurant serving about 30 individuals three meals each day.
An agenda packet published by the city shows reimbursements submitted to FEMA total more than $1.9 million to date. A backlog of claims due to the recent wildfires, however, meant the town won't see that money for an additional year, according to Myers.
\”Based upon the current information that we are getting from FEMA, since we already have invoicing in the cue for five months and the backlog that they have with the fire damage in the state of California, we are looking at a good 12 months before full reimbursement for this project,\” Myers said. \”Since we're floating this upfront and using general fund cash reserves, it simply isn't something we can still float in anticipation of being reimbursed inside a 12 month period of time.\”
Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins said she was disappointed with the federal delay, and expressed concern for local restaurants and also the seniors they serve with the program.
\”I agree that we cannot continue to fund something for which i was supposed to be reimbursed readily,\” Bruins said. \”It's been this type of boon to keep some of our restaurants going as well as provide for seniors who do not be eligible for a other programs.\”
In an effort to find some wiggle room to help keep the program in force, Councilman Bret Daniels asked if restaurants might be able to wait to receive payment. Vice Mayor Porsche Middleton said hello would be unfair to put local business owners in such a position.
Mayor Steve Miller called it a difficult choice, but said his decision was guided by what voters want. Other cities like Roseville also reportedly opted to end their participation in the program due to the reimbursement delay.
#mc_embed_signupbackground:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; width:100%;
/* Incorperate your own Mailchimp form style overrides inside your site stylesheet or in this style block.
We advise moving this block and the preceding CSS link to the HEAD of your HTML file. */
\”This is hard, but a majority of our residents said they do not want us spending anymore money,\” Miller told the council, referencing the failure of Measure M. \”We're bleeding money and that we need to start making cuts which is tough.”
Kevin Miles, part who owns R Vida Cantina, told The Sentinel the truly amazing Plates Delivered program kept his new restaurant afloat during a difficult year.
\”It allowed us to employ more people, create jobs through it,\” Miles said. \”We've were built with a lot of positive feedback in the elderly community and the people we've been delivering to. Some of them have actually are available in. I've seen a lot of their families. It's almost like we're family now, I understand all their names.\”
Miles is thankful for the opportunity, and for the city taking a chance on including a newly opened restaurant within the program. He said he would like to keep delivering meals to seniors, if he had the funds.
Bruins hopes the people of Citrus Heights can help local restaurants now left with no additional income the program provided.
\”I don't see that we have a choice other than to do this.,” she said. “But I just say if this passes council tonight let's put a plea out to the community to step-up your efforts to support these restaurants.\”