Trump budget criticized for impact on affordable housing, other programs

New Castle County Council voted to approve a shifting of budget funds that would indirectly send a portion of $15 million in CARES Act money to bolster an affordable housing fund.

New Castle County Chief Financial Officer Michael Smith told council's Finance Committee that a key the transaction was accounting for which county employee jobs fell under the guidelines to be covered by the $322.8 million New Castle County received from the federal government during the pandemic.

"Employees that are substantially dedicated to responding to and mitigating -- their jobs have changed--their focus changed--although already budgeted, we can book their expenses, salary and benefits to CARES Act. What that does, it reduces the expense in FY '21, the saved expenses go into the tax stabilization fund."

Once that money goes into the fund, Councilman Penrose Hollins said a pair of measures will be brought up next week to spend the $15 million, focused on affordable housing and reseeding the tax stabilization fund.

"The fact that the need has never been met with housing, it gets worse every day. The fact we have this opportunity, I would like to go forward and put the money towards a need we know exists today."

Hollins said it shows the commitment council will have towards helping create new homeowners.

"I believe in New Castle County we have some of the most progressive housing policies in the region, and I think this just goes further to demonstrate our commitment to affordable housing."

The discussion did not include the topic of "Hero's Pay," or hazard pay connected to the early days of the pandemic, which has been discussed in several forms by New Castle County, but has yet to come to fruition.

New Castle County has until December 31, 2021 to distribute the rest of its CARES Act allocation, or it gets returned to the federal government.