City Council Reviews COVID-19 Youth Survey, Establish Pandemic Business Loan Program

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Cameron Bren

MIDDLETON–The Middleton Common Council reviewed the results of a survey conducted by the Commission on Youth to assess the needs of youth and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commission on Youth member Jeff Rogers presented the survey findings and committee recommendations to the council. The survey received 108 responses total, four of which were from students.

Rogers said the survey indicates that youth are struggling as well as their parents. Children are yearning for in-person socializing while parents cite a lack of affordable childcare options.

“Our community is struggling, they are having a very difficult time and it is not just the children, it’s the parents,” Rogers said. “We have to think about this as a family.”

The three greatest areas of concern from respondents are education, health and socialization. Rogers said families would like more opportunities for in-person socializing but are concerned about safety.

“Obviously this is a challenge because they understand there is a health concern, but there is a grave concern overall in our community, or at least from the respondents, that socialization is something that is desperately needed by our community,” Rogers said.

Rogers said respondents are interested in programming covering outdoor and after school activities, camps, sports, mentor programs and virtual study groups, but less so for more online programming.

Rogers said the biggest challenge is informing families of the resources that are available.

“Not unlike our previous piece of research, families struggle with understanding the resources that are actually available to them both in the public and private sector,” Rogers said.

The Commission on Youth recommends the city develop a website to serve as a central location to inform residents of all public and private youth activity programs, internships and employment opportunities available and send periodic email newsletter for updating those interested. The commission recommends hiring an intern for 10 hours a week to set up and manage the activity hub and newsletter.

Mayor Gurdip Brar asked what the timeline is for implementing the website and newsletter. Rogers said as soon as possible.

Brar asked if the 10 hours could be covered by existing staff that are less busy with in-person work during the pandemic. Rogers said that is a viable option.

Rogers noted the cost of compensation could be offset by transitioning to a website format and no longer printing catalogs for publicizing recreational activities.

The council voted unanimously to approve establishing a local business loan program in 

titled Middleton Economic Relief Loan (MERL) in collaboration with Middleton Area Development Corporation (MADC) to assist businesses struggling from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both the city and MADC are contributing $100,000 to the program. The city’s portion will be covered by a State Trust Fund Loan program.

City Administrator Mike Davis said the program is rolling out at a crucial moment. 

“Certainly, with the lack of federal funding and additional sources right now it could not come at a better time,” Davis said.

District 6 Alder Susan West said she wants to ensure every business is informed of the program. Davis said a note is going out to every business with their utility bill.

The council also took action to expedite approval of a proposed expansion of Restoring Hope Transplant House, a Middleton based nonprofit organization that provides transplant patients and their caregivers a place to stay while they undergo treatment at nearby hospitals.

The council approved a rezoning ordinance for the project on first reading, which was requested by Director of Planning and Community Development Abby Attoun because the organization has spent considerable time with the Landmarks Commission and had a delayed public hearing. Three people who live in the neighborhood expressed support of the project during the hearing, Attoun noted.

The nonprofit can move forward with a planned expansion in a historic downtown building on 7457 Terrace Ave. which includes an addition to the house expanding the building from six guest rooms to 16, adding an elevator, expanding common areas and creating additional bathrooms. The plan also adds three on-site parking stalls and a new driveway for guest drop-off. 

Attoun pointed out the staff recommendation is for the council to approve the general and specific building plans contingent on staff approval of a lighting plan and addressing engineering staff comments. Both passed unanimously.

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