Local and Community News
Florida: "Mistakes" Rile AIDS Activists
December 11, 2002
Dozens of families may be in jeopardy of losing their homes or their utility services, activists say, because the city of Miami misused federal housing funds meant to assist patients with utility and mortgage payments. Now the city may award $3.3 million in new contracts, without a bidding process, to the same agencies that activists say wrongly received money last year. Those agencies specialize in AIDS education and prevention, but the funding was supposed to be used for housing needs. The contracts are to be voted on Thursday.Adapted from:
Activists John Muhammad and Marc Cohen want commissioners to reject the contracts and order city officials to draw up a new plan with their input. Dan Fernandez, acting director of community development, said there was no bid process this time around because the four agencies -- Spanish American Basic Education and Rehabilitation, Bethel A.M.E. Church, Care Resource and the Center for Positive Connections -- were previously approved by the city for AIDS prevention. Fernandez said his office did not deliberately violate federal rules in awarding housing funds to prevention agencies. Positive Connections Executive Director Sherri Kaplan said she did not think it would be difficult to offer housing services.
At issue is how the city administers the $13 million Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program. Activists contend that for the past five years the city has refused to consult with the county's HIV/AIDS citizens advisory board on its spending priorities.
Earlier this year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development ordered the city to repay more than $500,000 in housing funds that went to three agencies providing AIDS prevention and education -- a violation of federal rules. The same agencies are up for approval again, this time to provide housing services.
More recently, the city was forced to suspend its utility and mortgage payment programs because it failed to follow disbursement guidelines. Muhammad, who chairs Miami-Dade's HIV/AIDS planning advisory board, said about 60 families were notified this month they would not get the assistance. City officials said the number was lower. Fernandez said the city is creating an emergency program to help with missed payments.
12.11.02; Andrea Robinson
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.