Fargo passes housing resolution asking tenants, landlords to work together on payments during pandemic

People are seen sitting outside of the City Commission meeting chambers and watching the meeting on a screen in order to follow social distancing regulations on Monday, April 6, at City Hall in Fargo. Alyssa Goelzer / The Forum

FARGO — The Fargo City Commission has unanimously passed a resolution encouraging tenants and homeowners to work with landlords and financial institutions about rent and mortgage payments as the coronavirus pandemic takes its toll on the economy.

Commissioner John Strand proposed the non-binding resolution, which passed on a 5-0 vote at the meeting Monday night, April 6.

Strand said that 60% of Fargoans live in apartments and that it was a real concern for those who have lost their jobs.

He said he hoped landlords would "be open" to arrangements and that those in financial need and their landlords "communicate in a reasonable fashion."

Commissioner Tony Grindberg said having the parties work with each other is part of the "calm" that's needed in this time.


He said he visited with Job Service ND director Bryan Klipfel over the weekend and learned jobless benefit payments are retroactive to when a worker was laid off, there is no longer a week waiting period to get benefits and the state's "archaic computer system" in that department was working well.

Grindberg also said the typical jobless benefit payment is from $400 to $600 a week. Combined with the extra $600 a week for each worker from the federal stimulus passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump, weekly checks could range from $1,000 to $1,200.

That could be a benefit when renters and homeowners are making payment arrangements with landlords and financial institutions, he said.

Grindberg also said 37,000 North Dakotans have filed for jobless benefits since the pandemic took hold, including 2,500 workers over the weekend.

Mayor Tim Mahoney said staff would start looking further into budget concerns this week .

He said with drops in sales tax income — one of the funding sources for city operations — and the possible loss of state infrastructure aid through Operation Prairie Dog that they will be examining street, sewer and water line replacement projects, equipment purchases, limitations on some services and city staffing, especially seasonal workers.

Funds have already been saved by ending all travel and conferences for staff due to health concerns, Mahoney said.

The mayor said City Administrator Bruce Grubb and Assistant Administrator Mike Redlinger will meet with department heads and the finance committee that he serves on in the coming days to examine possible money-saving options.


However, federal assistance through the economic aid package could help the city in some areas of its budgeting.

Mahoney said City Finance Director Kent Costin, however, was "very concerned" about the possible budget implications and loss of revenue.

Any decisions would come back to the City Commission for final approval.

"It's real," said Grindberg about the possibility of budget adjustments.

Also in the works in the city are task forces to help provide food, shelter and communication support. City Planning Department Director Nicole Crutchfield said they need to look at knowledge, financial issues and sources for help in the task forces.

Grindberg said nonprofit agencies could also be a boost to "the lot of people that are hurting" and that 211 is a good source to call for information.

It was also noted that another unified meeting of Cass County, Fargo and West Fargo officials, including the park districts, will be held Tuesday, April 7, to expand on issues concerning the pandemic.

In a final comment, Strand praised Mahoney for his "exemplary job" in leading the city during the dark days. He said a point man was needed and that the mayor was fulfilling that role.


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