City of Palm Coast Utility Assistance Program - Policies and Procedures
The purpose of the Utility Assistance Program is to assist the Low-Moderate Income (LMI) Palm Coast, Florida, residential utility customers with the economic impacts being experienced as a result of Covid-19. Funding for this program comes from a grant from the U.S. Department of Urban Development (HUD) in the amount of $299,058, up to 15% of the funds will be used for administrative costs. Intent of the program is to provide approved applicants with payment for six (6) months of utility expense. Funds will be provided to participants in the form of a grant and will be provided on a first ready, first served basis until funds are exhausted. The amount of the individual grants is anticipated to average $700. The exact amount of each grant will be determined as outlined in B.8., below. Therefore, successful implementation of this program is anticipated to assist at least 360 LMI households within the City of Palm Coast.
These policies and procedures have been developed to provide guidance to Palm Coast residents and city officials in the administration of this program.
Applicant. An applicant is a person/household who has filled out an application for the program and provided required application documents.
Participant. Refers to an applicant who has been approved by the City of Palm Coast for participation in the program and has provided the City with all signed documents.
Utility. This refers to the utilities provided by the City of Palm Coast which include:
- Sanitary Sewer
- Storm Water
The program does not include payment for other utilities, such as natural gas, electricity, cable TV, or telephone.
Residential utility customer. This program is eligible to lower-income residential households within the city limits of Palm Coast who have an account for city utilities as of January 21, 2020 shall be eligible to make application for participation in the program and have experienced loss of income due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Additionally, applicants must have established residency in the City of Palm Coast within at least 3 months of the application.
Eligible properties. The program is available to homeowners, as well as residential renters. The applicant must be the same as the person residing in the property with the utilities registered in their name.
Income eligibility. This program is eligible to lower-income (LMI) households as defined periodically by HUD. A current income chart by household size for Palm Coast, Florida is available as Exhibit A. Income eligibility shall be determined based upon 2019 household income. Proof of income eligibility shall be determined utilizing a signed copy of the applicant’s 2019 federal income tax return(s). For those households that may not have filed a 2019 income tax return, other means of income verification will be accepted, such as a Social Security notification of eligibility or copy of most recent pay stub.
Verification of applicant tie-back to Covid-19. One of the HUD grant requirements is that all participants need to show how they were economically affected by the Covid-19 pandemic (tie-back). The preferred method of documentation for tie-back will be a verification of eligibility for unemployment compensation dated after January 21, 2020. This program recognizes that not all applicants will be eligible for unemployment compensation, so other forms of verification that the household has been economically affected by Covid-19 will be permitted. Applicants may have subsequently been re-employed. Eligibility is determined based upon loss of income due to Covid-19, not current employment status.
Eligible utility payments. Payments shall be based upon a 3-month average of utilities experienced by the approved applicant. Funds may be applied to past due accounts or be applied to the participant’s account for payment of future utility expenses of the applicant. Grant funds shall be made as a monthly balance transfer made to the Utility Department from the grant fund. Documentation for the balance transfer shall include a listing of all utility customers included within the transfer with a signed customer authorization form indicating approval of the grant amount to be transferred.
Application and Application Process.
As funding for this program is limited, the City of Palm Coast wishes to provide equal access to the program to all residents of the community. Therefore, prior to accepting any applications, Palm Coast will advertise the availability of the program and how to apply for a period of two (2) weeks prior to opening the program for applications. Notices of the program’s availability will be posted on the city’s web site, distributed on social media (Facebook, Twitter), and through the City’s customer portal “Constant Contact” as well as through public service announcements with the local news media and other means of notification at the discretion of the City. Commencing on September 28, 2020, applications will be available on-line at www.palmcoastgov.com or can be made by calling the City Customer Service Division at (386) 986-2360. Applications will be accepted until all funds have been obligated or until otherwise noted. Applications will be processed on a first ready, first served basis. To be considered ready for processing an application must contain all required information including all required attachments.
The City Customer Service Division will be available to assist applicants in completing the application form. Completed applications will be sent to the designated representative for the Institute for Building Technology and Safety (IBTS). IBTS will conduct a final review for completeness and recommendation of approval, including analysis of Duplication of Benefits as required by the Stafford Act. IBTS will provide the designated City representative with a recommendation for approval of application along with completed forms (included within the application form) ready for a grant closing. Upon final approval by the City of Palm Coast, a closing will be scheduled with the applicant. Closing can either be conducted in person or the closing can be conducted digitally by the participant. Completed applications and closing documents will be stored manually in an applicant hard copy file and uploaded to the City of Palm Coast’s “System of Record”.
On a monthly basis IBTS will prepare a balance transfer list for distribution by the designated Palm Coast staff member to the Utility Department along with transfer of funds to be credited to each participant’s utility account.
IBTS will also utilize the uploaded participant records to the System of Record to prepare an additional report to the Palm Coast designated staff member detailing program accomplishments for the prior month in addition to information that will assist Palm Coast with preparation of their quarterly progress reports (QPRs) for HUD reporting requirements. This monthly report will be considered one of the deliverables to be submitted with the IBTS monthly invoice for services.
Appeals. Anyone who applied to the City of Palm Coast’s Utility Assistance Program and was found to be ineligible or believes that an error was made in their award amount may appeal their determination. If you believe the program’s determination of your funding award calculation or your eligibility status is incorrect, you can request an appeal in writing to the City of Palm Coast’s Community Development Department. You must appeal any issues with your award within 10 days of the determination as set out in the determination letter. After 10 days, the status is considered final and can no longer be reviewed.
Amendments to the Plan. These policies and procedures may be amended from time to time as deemed necessary and appropriate upon recommendation from IBTS and approved by the designated City of Palm Coast representative.
Waiver of Program Requirements. Nothing contained within these policies and procedures prevents the City of Palm Coast from waiving any adopted program rules and regulations, provided, however, that the waiver does not violate any applicable laws.