Chula Vista nonprofit parts ways with city over way stimulus money was spent


A Chula Vista-based nonprofit focused on helping South County’s homeless population is parting ways with the city after a disagreement about the way federal stimulus funds were spent.Community Through Hope will “close the door softly on our relationship with the city,” said CEO and president Rosy Vasquez.The organization has been serving the community for a decade and was formally established as a nonprofit in 2018. Its partnership with the city started that year when both parties entered into a one-year agreement with options for two one-year extensions. Chula Vista agreed to pay the organization $30,000 a year to launch its outreach and food pantry services.The group is upset about how the city spent more than $135,000 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act dollars. Community Through Hope said it was led to believe it would receive a share of the money, but instead the money was given, without the organization’s knowledge, to the city’s police department to assist with traffic control at the nonprofit during the pandemic.After moving into their current location on C Street, the nonprofit began holding food distribution events, which were among the first in South County at the start of the coronavirus crisis.“We went from seeing 40 people on day one. So, by the end of the week, (we saw) over 1,000 people,” said Sebastian Martinez, Community Through Hope executive director. “People all the way from Anaheim (would come) because we were so early in doing the distribution that there just wasn’t these resources yet.”To address traffic congestion, the organization received help from the police department’s school resource officers as campuses remained closed at the time. Traffic control became a more frequent service for Community Through Hope and several other food distribution events in the city as they began taking place.“With gratitude, our agency is not disputing the fact that the Chula Vista Police school resource officers helped with traffic control during our distributions,” said Vasquez. “The issue is that we were never notified that our agency was incurring the costs.”In August 2020, the city decided it would invest a portion of its $3.3 million in CARES Act funding toward local organizations helping residents in need, including $30,000 for Community Through Hope’s food distribution services.The nonprofit said it never received the COVID-19 relief dollars. Vasquez said the organization learned of what became of those dollars via a Nov. 4 memo by City Manager Maria Kachadoorian to council members.In her message, Kachadoorian explained that the $30,000 in CARES monies for the nonprofit was intended to serve as the city’s last payment under its three-year contract with Community Through Hope.“The initial recommendation was to use the CARES funding in lieu of the General Fund for the final payment but this was causing some confusion for CTH. Therefore, in order to avoid confusion, the final payment to CTH was funded out of the General Fund,” read Kachadoorian’s letter.The $30,000 CARES dollars, plus an additional $105,843, were then used “to offset the cost of providing traffic control services to CTH,” the city manager said.“The city manager states the police department was able to provide traffic support during these challenging times by reallocating school resource officers that were no longer needed at closed school campuses for food distribution sites,” Vasquez said. “If the officers were available, then why was our agency charged for their service?”The nonprofit said it had reached out to the city on multiple occasions to speak with the city manager for clarification and to negotiate an extension of its contract but was told by staff not to contact her about the matter.Kachadoorian was not available for comments on the matter, said city spokesperson Anne Steinberger. In her letter, the city manager added the city “will continue to work with CTH and other non-profits to collaborate and provide in-kind services, such as vaccinations, and support for food distribution efforts when possible.”


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