The Saint Paul City Council laid over a proposal on October 6 to provide $902,255 in federal Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) related to COVID-19 to the proposed Keystone Community Services food shelf at University and Beacon avenues in Merriam Park. The proposal will return to the council on October 20.

While council members agreed that the food shelf is a worthy endeavor, they want more information. They also questioned why the funds are not being awarded through a competitive process and why an expenditure of almost $1 million appeared on the consent agenda.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has allocated CDBGs for decades. The additional funding is specific to needs related to the pandemic and comes through the federal CARES Act.

Because the food shelf has provided a much higher volume of services since the start of COVID-19, city staff and Mayor Melvin Carter’s administration deemed Keystone eligible for the funding.

The nonprofit is consolidating its food shelves and adding space by converting two longtime commercial buildings into a bigger food storage, handling and distribution center. Keystone, which serves people throughout the city, has held 21 drive-up food distribution events, and has seen great increases in the number of people served in 2020 and 2021.

— Jane McClure

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