Evanston aldermen will be asked Monday to authorize using up to $1 million from the city’s affordable housing fund to pay for hotel rooms, food and transportation for homeless residents and other Evanstonians displaced by COVID-19.

Interim City Manager Erika Storlie says the city has already spent about $450,000 for housing and other needs for about 200 homeless people plus residents and first-responders who’ve been exposed to COVID-19 and are unable to quarantine in their homes.

She forecasts needing an additional $325,000 for the program by the end of this month. And the expenses could continue, depending on how fast the city is able to reopen normal activities.

Storlie says the city will seek reimbursement for 75% of the expenses from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and that the rest may be covered by other federal funding.

The affordable housing fund has a balance of $2.2 million and Storlie says using that fund to cover the emergency costs temporarily will preserve general fund revenue for other needs and reduce the need for borrowing.

Update 5/12/20 9:15 a.m.: Aldermen voted unanimously to approved the reallocation of funds Monday night. Interim City Manager Erika Storlie said the city has rented a total of 104 rooms at two different hotels to provide the emergency housing.

Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, requested an update at a future meeting about how staff planned to transition the homeless at the hotels to other housing solutions in the future. “We can’t afford the hotel rooms forever,” Fleming said.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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