News

Supporting Small Businesses and Keeping Raleigh Safe

 April 24, 2020

I want to wish Ramadan Mubarak to all in Raleigh who are celebrating this month. I hope you and your family are able to find peace and happiness even in this difficult time. 

The Raleigh City Council held a special virtual city council meeting this week to provide support for small businesses and the housing insecure as we continue to deal with the impact of COVID-19 on our city. The council also moved to allow virtual neighborhood meetings for rezonings so that our residents can continue to remain engaged while staying at home during COVID-19.

To assist Raleigh’s housing insecure, the city began crafting a plan to provide rent, utility, and mortgage assistance as well as homelessness and eviction prevention for families below 30% of the area median income using CARES Act funding. The plan requires a public hearing that will take place on May 5th

We also approved $1 million toward a grant fund to help Raleigh’s small businesses, as many have been unable to get immediate assistance from the federal government. Raleigh’s 33,000 small businesses are the cultural soul of our community and I’m proud and excited to step up to support them. Small businesses can learn more about the program here. We are working to open applications as soon as possible, and hope to have it up and running by May 5th. Please continue to check the website daily for any updates. 

On Thursday, the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce held a call to request corporate support for the Raleigh Small Business Fund. We challenged them to match the $1 million from the city to further support our small business community. Thank you to the 44 corporate partners who joined us. If you are interested in helping (any dollar amount will be appreciated), please reach out to me or Adrienne Cole at the Chamber.

Yesterday, the Governor announced that our statewide stay-at-home order will be extended until at least May 8th.  He also unveiled a phased plan to reopen our state. I fully support our Governor’s plan, which is driven by data and the advice of public health experts. The leaders of Wake County’s 12 municipalities will be discussing how to modify our own stay-at-home order next week. Before we begin a phased reopening, we need to greatly ramp up our testing and tracing capabilities and we need to see a real trend of decline in cases. We are just not there yet, but we can get there with our continued efforts to stay at home. We are doing the right thing and it’s working. 

 

Staying at Home is Working

 April 17, 2020

Yesterday, Wake County, in coordination with all 12 of its municipalities, extended its stay-at-home order through April 30th. I stand with our county leaders and my fellow mayors in supporting this effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Under the updated stay-at-home guidelines, all retail businesses in Raleigh and countywide will be allowed to operate if they provide delivery or curbside pickup options for customers. The new order also allows faith organizations to hold drive-in services if social distancing practices are followed. 

These have been some of the most challenging times we’ve faced as a community, but I want to emphasize that staying at home is working. We are still working with health officials to gather the most up-to-date local data possible, and we are seeing evidence of the curve beginning to flatten across North Carolina. This wouldn’t have been possible without your continued commitment to staying at home and following social distancing guidelines. Eventually, there will be a time to discuss how we begin to relax restrictions and reopen some businesses, but we can only do so based on definitive data, the advice of our public health experts and an ample supply of testing and PPE. Please continue to follow orders from our city, Wake County and our Governor to keep our community safe. 

I realize not everyone has the luxury of staying at home, and that many of Raleigh’s residents rely on public transportation to get to work, the pharmacy, and grocery stores. The city is taking every precaution to ensure the safety of bus drivers and other frontline workers by providing them with sanitization pumps and PPE and focusing on social distancing. If you do have to go out for an essential reason, I strongly encourage you to wear a face covering in the interest of your safety and the safety of others. You can learn how to make one at home from the CDC’s website here.

This week marks National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, and I want to thank the men and women of Raleigh and Wake County who respond to emergency calls and save lives in our community every day. They are some of the unseen heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic. I also want to thank all of Raleigh’s public safety employees, our health care workers, and all city workers who are on the frontlines of this crisis.

Next Tuesday, the city council will hold a special meeting to discuss a grant fund for small businesses in Raleigh as well as distribution of emergency funds from the CARES Act. In the meantime, small businesses and impacted workers can find coronavirus-related resources from the City of Raleigh and more here. The meeting is virtual via Webex and starts at 1pm. You may watch on the City’s websiteYouTube, or RTN 11.

COVID-19 and City Council Meeting Update

April 10, 2020

This is a special week for many of us as we celebrate Passover and Easter, even if it’s not the way any of us imagined spending it. Even though we are physically apart, I hope you are able to enjoy the holidays with those you do have at home and keep in touch with your friends and family remotely.

This week, the city council held its first ever virtual meeting as we continue to monitor and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ll get to new actions we took in a minute, but first, I have a special request:  I and all members of the city council are making donations to three non-profits that are on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19 in Raleigh – Oak City Cares, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, and the NC Restaurant Workers Relief Fund. We’ve already raised $6,500, and an anonymous donor has just pledged to give $50,000 if we can raise another $10,000.  If you’re able, please consider donating here.

In our virtual meeting, we received updates on the state of COVID-19 and discussed how we can further act to slow the spread in Raleigh. One of the first actions we took at the beginning of this crisis was to reinstate all water and sewer services that were disconnected due to non-payment. This week, we voted to expand the consumption tiers of our residential water rates, preventing those that are staying at home from being pushed into our highest rate for increased water usage. The city is continuing to work closely with local non-profits and our county to provide shelter with appropriate social distancing measures for our city’s homeless and housing insecure, as well as providing staging areas for food distribution across Raleigh. We voted to allocate $100,000 in emergency assistance to individuals and families with children living in hotels, understanding that these members of our community are some of the hardest impacted by COVID-19. 

Over the past week, Raleigh has taken further steps to modify public transportation and city services so that we can continue to serve the public in this crisis while keeping everyone protected. We have limited bus routes except to those that serve hospitals and other essential facilities, instituted social distancing seating policies, and provided sanitization pumps for all bus operators and the public. We are continuing to work to protect all city workers by limiting exposure to each other and the public, including providing PPE to all front-line workers and temporarily limiting some solid waste services.

Protecting Raleigh’s 33,400 small businesses and their workers remains a top priority and we are continuing to research ways to support our business community. I provided some resources for small businesses and employees here. You can find even more resources on the Office of Economic Development and Innovation’s website here.

I also announced this week that due to the stress COVID-19 has placed on city resources, we will not be moving forward with a parks bond this year. Parks and greenways have become our refuge over the past few weeks, but we now have an economic crisis looming. We will continue to pursue placing a housing bond on the ballot this year. 

Finally – some good news that I’m excited to share. Software communications company Bandwidth has chosen to expand Raleigh, bringing 1,165 new jobs to our city. The company is also investing $100 million in a new campus on the Blue Ridge Corridor. It’s a great reminder in these difficult times that Raleigh’s best days are still ahead.

As we head into the holiday weekend, please stay safe, be kind, and enjoy time with friends and family over the phone or through video conference. We are Raleigh, and we will get through this together. 

 

COVID-19 Update and Resources

April 3, 2020
 
It’s been just under a week since Raleigh and Wake County’s ‘stay-at-home’ order went into effect. Since Monday, our entire state has been under a similar order from Governor Cooper. We are only at the beginning of this crisis, but I am more confident than ever that we will get through this if we all continue to do our part – even when it gets tough – and stay home.
As COVID-19 moves quickly into our community, I wanted to share some resources for you and your family, how you can help, and actions our city is taking to continue government functions.
First, if you or a member of your family is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, our county and state have issued new guidance to ensure those that are most in need are tested. Reach out to your doctor or local health department about a test if you meet one of the two criteria:
 
  1. A fever or lower respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) and close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case within the past 14 days; OR
  2. A fever and lower respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath) and a negative rapid flu test
If you have recently become unemployed, you can apply for benefits at any time – 24 hours a day, seven days a week, online at this link. Additional payments from the federal government will begin this week and will be paid retroactively.
There are several resources for small businesses who are struggling as a result of COVID-19. You can learn more about and apply for a North Carolina COVID-19 Rapid Recovery Loan here. The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering a loan to help small businesses keep workers on their payroll for the next several months. You can learn more about that program here. You can apply through your bank beginning today, April 3rd. The Raleigh Chamber of Commerce also has excellent information on the SBA Disaster Assistance Loan program.
 
There are also several opportunities for grants from large businesses and non-profits. Google, which has a significant footprint in Raleigh, is offering grants and credits to small businesses. You can learn more here. Facebook is offering a similar grant program for small businesses.
 
Next week, the City Council will hold our April 7 meeting virtually, which we will do for the duration of the State of Emergency. We will continue regular city business as well as discuss our continued response to COVID-19. You can learn more and sign up to speak here.
 
We are in uncharted territory as a city and as a nation. The next few weeks will bring even more losses and challenges and we need each other now more than ever. Take care of yourselves and check in with friends and family members via phone and social media. Thank you to those who have been on the frontlines of this crisis – our doctors, nurses, and emergency services workers. We are so grateful to you and all of those who are keeping our city safe during this time.
  

Stay at Home Order

March 27, 2020

Yesterday, Wake County announced a ‘stay-at-home’ order that will take effect at 5pm today, March 27th, to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am grateful to our city and county leaders for the hard work and thoughtful conversations that went into this decision. These measures will be in effect until at least April 16th as we continue to monitor COVID-19 in our city. I discussed the details of the order in a video released earlier today

 The stay-at-home order includes the following mandates:

• All non-essential facilities, services, operations and retail businesses must close.
• Gatherings of any size are prohibited. 
• People of any age with medical conditions should not leave their homes except to get medical care.
• Social distancing must be practiced while in public.
• Public transportation should only be used if necessary. If public transport is a person’s primary way to get around, they should abide by social distancing best practices, standing and sitting at least six feet apart and using sanitizing products.

The stay-at-home order DOES NOT restrict activities such as:

• Shopping for food at the grocery store or picking up take-out meals from a local restaurant.
• Operating businesses that provide critical services like hospitals, government agencies and financial institutions. 
• Caring for a family member or pet in another household.
• Providing childcare for parents who have to go to work at jobs that are considered essential.
• Utilizing plumbers, electricians, exterminators and others who help maintain the safety and sanitation of residences.
• Visiting a local park, greenway or nature preserve while practicing social distancing. Please note that only open park areas and greenways will remain open. Athletic courts and fields, dog parks, playgrounds, lakes, restrooms, and all other facilities will be closed. 

It has been a tough few weeks for many of us, and the next few weeks will be even tougher. But this only works if we all stay strong and work together. While we are keeping our physical distance, it’s more important than ever that we stay connected. Text or call to check in on your friends, family, and neighbors -- and make sure you are taking care of yourself as well. 

I cannot emphasize how important it is for you to stay at home.  But, stay at home does not mean shelter in place.  While physically distancing yourself at least six feet, take a walk in your neighborhood, around a city park or greenway. Get some fresh air and sunshine. Walk your pet. Please take care of yourself. We will get through this.


 

COVID-19 Update

March 18, 2020
  
Our world has changed rapidly in less than a week. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our daily lives and routines. The Raleigh City Council is working closely with the Governor’s Office, the NC Department of Health & Human Services, and Wake County Human Services to ensure the continued health and safety of our community during this time. I wanted to take a moment to provide you an update on the actions the city has taken to address COVID-19 and how we move forward.
 
Here are actions I’ve taken along with the City Council in recent days:
 
• We authorized reinstatement of water and sewer services that were disconnected due to nonpayment to ensure that all residents have access to clean water. Further, we will ensure that no water services are cut off for non-payment during this crisis.
• We have suspended ordinances that prevent deliveries to grocery stores, nonprofit enterprises, and other businesses at certain times so that these stores have access to stock as soon as possible.
• We are working with the county to provide staging areas for food distribution.
• We amended our street parking ordinance to allow street parking to be reserved to serve the public good, including dedicated parking in front of restaurants that provide takeout services.
• We convened a meeting with our small business community to listen and act on concerns.
• We continue to work with and advise our nonprofit and corporate partners of immediate and longterm needs of our city.
• For our community’s health, all district council meetings, boards and commissions, and committee meetings are cancelled until April 15th. All public hearings have been moved to our next scheduled council meeting on April 7th. In the meantime, we are working with staff to provide options for virtual meetings. One of our top priorities continues to be a November bond referendum to address housing affordability, which will be even more critical when this crisis passes. We remain committed to this goal.
 
This is an exceedingly difficult time for our local business community. I hope you will join me in supporting them while keeping ourselves and our neighbors safe. You can find a list of takeout and delivery restaurants in Raleigh here. I also hope you’ll join me in supporting organizations like Oak City Cares and the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina that serve our community’s most vulnerable members. You can find a list of several organizations that need your help here.
 
I’ll be working to keep you updated as the situation continues to unfold. Follow my Facebook and Instagram pages to stay in the loop. Also, if you have ideas or would like to share ways the city government can help during this crisis, please contact me at maryann.baldwin@raleighnc.gov.
 
I’m so grateful for how our community has pulled together in uncertain times. Let’s continue to work together to be flexible, kind, compassionate, nonjudgmental, and generous.
 

100 Days of Progress

March 14, 2020

It's been 100 days since your new Raleigh City Council took office and we’ve been busy. We've already acted on our promises regarding housing affordability, mobility, and community engagement – and there’s still so much more to do. Change isn’t easy, but with your continued support, we remain committed to building a Raleigh for all.

Here is some of the progress we’ve made in 100 days:

 • We’re moving forward on Quality of Life Bonds -- Raleigh's "Moon Shot" as I described at my swearing-in ceremony.  These bonds will make historic investments in housing affordability and enhance our parks and greenways system, including funding to begin the development of Dix Park. We are currently engaged in a robust community engagement effort to determine what will be included in the bond package. A final vote will be taken May 19th to place the bonds on the November General Election ballot. Click here to learn more. 

• We created a Police Advisory Board to advise the Raleigh Police Department on policy, training, accountability, and building community trust. Police officers knowing the people they protect and residents knowing the police officers who serve them is critical. Anyone interested in serving can submit an application and learn more here.

• We acted to allow cottage courts to be built across the city, as well as townhomes, duplexes, triplexes and quads -- known as "Missing Middle Housing." For many people, their entree into the housing market is through the purchase of a townhome. Under the current rules, townhomes cannot be built in 80 percent of the city.  Under the new rules, an array of housing options could be available, providing residents with more affordable choices.

• We modified the Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance that essentially banned ADUs (also known as "granny flats") to now allow them by right with reasonable regulations.

• With input from the public and city staff, we enacted a policy change to allow short-term rentals. Anyone renting a room or a home on Airbnb or VRBO will need to request a zoning permit and follow safety and public health rules. There will be a "three strikes" rule to protect neighbors. Additionally, city staff will monitor trends and report back to the Council on how the regulations are working and if any further changes should be considered.

• We have started the process of building a “compassion fund” to help Raleigh residents without a stable home (living in hotels, etc.) to move into rental housing. The proposed seed fund would cover a security deposit and first month’s rent for qualified families who need some help getting started.

• After years of studies and suggested reforms, we have taken the first steps to revolutionize citizen engagement in Raleigh. The CAC system that we have ended had become far too insular and not representative of our diverse community.  Our new approach will expand our use of technology to engage more voices including renters, students, seniors, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community and other underrepresented voices.

• I’m really excited to report that we have created a Commission on Hispanic & Immigrant Affairs to give this important segment of our community a voice in the affairs of our city. These residents offer Raleigh a unique and dynamic perspective and I am delighted with this latest development.  Anyone interested in serving on the Commission may submit an application and learn more at this link.

• We have also formed a study group to hear from you on how the City Council can better represent you and also how we can increase citizen engagement and turnout in municipal elections. You can learn more and get involved here. If you’re interested in serving on a city board or commission, please let me know.

• And finally, in recent days we have redoubled efforts in coordinating with our local, state, and federal public health and safety partners to deal with the ongoing risks of COVID-19.  Our top priority is keeping the people who live in Raleigh safe.  I encourage everyone to follow the guidance given by healthcare professionals.

It’s been a great 100 days!  Thank you again for all your ongoing support.  I can’t do it without your help. I look forward to the next 100 days and beyond.  Let’s keep working to build a city of progress, innovation, and compassion for all.