City of Topeka Announces Launch of Free Financial Navigator Service to Help Residents Tackle COVID-19 Financial Challenges

In partnership with national nonprofit organization the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund), the City of Topeka announced today the launch of a free Financial Navigators program to help residents navigate critical financial issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Financial Navigators will be available remotely starting September 21st to provide guidance over the phone to help residents access available programs and services to manage income disruptions and other financial concerns. Financial Navigators help residents one-on-one to triage personal financial issues, identify immediate action steps to manage expenses and maximize income, and make referrals to other services such as meeting daily living expenses, maximizing income, managing debt, budgeting and avoiding predatory scams. The City of Topeka will offer these Financial Navigator services in partnership with Housing and Credit Counseling Inc.

“We are in unprecedented times that are greatly affecting families and their finances. The Financial Navigator program with support from Cities for Financial Empowerment and Housing and Credit Counselling, is an amazing tool that will help our families have access to great partners in our community. This support can help our citizens navigate challenges and stay self-sufficient during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mayor Michelle De La Isla.

Residents can access these remote services by completing the web form here: https://finnav.org/topeka or calling (785) 670-5900 to sign up. The financial navigator will then send a short service agreement and call the client to begin their personal session. Organizations across Topeka can also refer clients directly to a financial navigator.

The City of Topeka is launching the Financial Navigators program in partnership with the CFE Fund, who provided grant funding along with significant technical assistance and training to launch the program in Topeka and other cities and counties across the nation. The Financial Navigators initiative is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Citi Foundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and the Wells Fargo Foundation.

“Financial distress is a primary part of the COVID-19 crisis, and we’re pleased Mayor De La Isla and her team is making this a priority for Topeka residents,” said Jonathan Mintz, President and CEO of the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund. “The Financial Navigators program will help City of Topeka residents assess and prioritize their financial concerns and get connected with the right resources.”

“The pandemic and resulting economic crises have hit low- and middle-income households, contingent and undocumented workers, and many others very hard,” said James Anderson, Head of Government Innovation at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “We are very pleased to help the CFE Fund expand its high quality and impactful financial empowerment services to reach many more people in more cities.”

“Sound financial health is a critical component of addressing the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on low-income and diverse communities in the U.S,” said Sarah Bainton Kahn, VP of Global Philanthropy, JPMorgan Chase & Co. “We are pleased to collaborate with the CFE Fund to help people in Topeka to access the tools and services they need to build resiliency and advance their financial health.”

“Communities across the country continue to face significant economic challenges as a result of COVID-19,” said Brandee McHale, Head of Citi Community Investing and Development and President of the Citi Foundation. “To provide residents in Topeka with the vital financial tools and support necessary to navigate the financial impacts of the pandemic, the Citi Foundation is proud to partner once again with the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund to launch the Financial Navigators program.”

“The pandemic has clearly heightened awareness around the financial hardships that so many people were already facing here in Topeka and deep disparities that exist in society,” said Darlene Goins, head of financial health philanthropy with the Wells Fargo Foundation. “We applaud the CFE Fund for bringing together the City of Topeka, philanthropists, and financial services and other industries to reimagine solutions that can help improve financial stability and resiliency for individuals and families, particularly during this economic crisis.”

About the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund)

The CFE Fund supports municipal efforts to improve the financial stability of households by leveraging opportunities unique to local government. By translating cutting edge experience with large scale programs, research, and policy in cities of all sizes, the CFE Fund assists mayors and other local leaders to identify, develop, fund, implement, and research pilots and programs that help families build assets and make the most of their financial resources. The CFE Fund is currently working in over 100 cities, and has disbursed over $42 million to city governments and their partners to support these efforts. For more information, please visit www.cfefund.org or follow us on Twitter at @CFEFund.

 

Independent Police Auditor Investigation Concluded in the Tamiko Mitchell Case

The Independent Police Auditor has concluded his investigation into the use of force incident regarding Tamiko Mitchell and the Topeka Police Department. After a thorough review of officer statements, witness statements, and seven body worn camera videos, the Independent Police Auditor has concluded that the use of force was within policy. All 17 pages of the IPA report are attached to the release.
The body worn camera video will be released to the public pending criminal proceedings.
Topeka Police Department policies, including use of force policies can be found on the City of Topeka website: https://www.topeka.org/tpd/topeka-police-policies/

Saline Road River Access Closed

Starting Monday September 21st, the Kansas River Public Access on Saline Road in North Topeka will be closed while necessary construction takes place at the river weir and boat ramp area. This is a popular area for fisherman and canoe access. However, for safety reasons the entire area will be closed to the public during construction which is expected to last until December 31st, 2020.

The project underway at this location will include a paddler channel which will allow safe navigation through the left side of the existing river weir without having to portage. The other features of the project include alteration of existing wing dikes and installation of rock and concrete surfaces below the weir to improve public safety.

For river users, recommended alternate locations for river access during construction are the boat ramps in Kaw River State Park or Seward Avenue Access.

You can learn more and follow the progress of the project using the Topeka Open Projects Dashboard under Project Number T-281058.01, KS River Weir Upstream Modifications.

Impact Avenues First Year Successes

The Impact Avenues program successfully housed 99 children and 41 families in its first year. Impact Avenues is a program that aims to significantly reduce student homelessness in our community by assisting students and their families obtain stable housing through graduation. The City of Topeka and 38 partner agencies worked together to provide wrap-around services for our homeless student population to help significantly reduce homelessness in our community. During this time the Impact Avenues program had a 98% retention rate in keeping families housed during COVID-19.

“Topeka is dedicated to ensuring that no student has to endure the burden and stigma that is associated with homelessness,” said Carrie Higgins, Impact Avenues program coordinator. “I am very proud that Impact Avenues has been able to help ninety-nine children become housed, and continue to stay housed in its first year. I’m excited to continue the important work and continue to help eradicate child homelessness in our community.”

A student is considered homeless if they lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence (i.e., living in cars, parks, public spaces, house sharing, couch surfing, living in motels or campgrounds due to the lack of adequate accommodations, living in emergency shelters, etc.). To qualify for Impact Avenues, a student has to be referred through a school liaison. Children and their families will get the support they need to obtain stable housing and assistance with overcoming barriers to success like transportation, employment, financial literacy, healthcare and others.

“Our superintendent partnered with Impact Avenues and Advisors Excel last year to reduce poverty and support economic prosperity in Shawnee County as part of the district’s strategic plan,” said Leslie Carr, Coordinator of Social Work for Topeka Public Schools. “As the coordinator of homeless programs and social work for Topeka Public Schools, I am proud of the positive effect Impact Avenues has had in moving families out of homelessness. The partnership between the district, the City of Topeka, and Advisors Excel has reduced homelessness for Shawnee County, and I am excited to continue supporting families in the coming year.”

Over 210 educational classes have been taken by families, which include classes offered by community partners that include Finance 101, Housing, 101, Employment 101, and Healthcare 101.

This year Impact Avenues will be taking referrals from social service agencies as well as from Topeka Public Schools in order to expand the reach of Impact Avenues and identify more children that could benefit from Impact Avenues.

“We are thrilled with the first-year successes Impact Avenues has had helping give Topeka families a hand up,” said Advisors Excel Co-Founder Cody Foster. “This is an amazing partnership with 38 agencies and the City of Topeka, working together to provide families the tools and resources to get and keep them in permanent homes. We are very proud to be a part of this program, and hope to help even more families this school year,” Foster said.

Advisors Excel is providing up to $500,000 to support the Impact Avenues program for the first three years. The Topeka Community Foundation will administer the Impact Avenues funding on behalf of Advisors Excel through an existing partnership with the Topeka Community Foundation to support their charitable work in the Topeka community.

How to help:

For more information, please go to https://www.topeka.org/impact-avenues/.

If your organization is willing to assist us in this crucial effort, please contact Impact Avenues program lead, Corrie Wright at cwright@topeka.org.

To contribute to ongoing expenses for the program, you can donate online at https://www.topekacommunityfoundation.org/Donate/ and select the “Impact Avenues Fund”, or send a check directly to the Topeka Community Foundation with “Impact Avenues Fund” in the memo line.

You can watch a video on Impact Avenues here: https://youtu.be/KWtLsCNQ7kU

2020 E-cycle Cancelled

The City of Topeka is making the difficult decision to cancel our involvement in this year’s Topeka E-cycle event due to the COVID-19 pandemic and public health concerns. The Division of Community Engagement is dedicated to providing a safe environment to our neighbors, and with an event this large in size, it is not feasible to provide adequate social distancing and sanitization to ensure our neighbors, staff and volunteers remain protected from the potential spread of COVID-19. The decision is a difficult one because this event provides the opportunity for a large number of our neighbors to dispose of their electronic recyclable items. We look forward to the 2021 Topeka E-cycle during safer times in our community.
Please note that Household Hazardous Waste accepts all E-waste during their normal operational hours. Mon-Thurs: 7:00 am – 5:00 pm; Friday: 7:00 am – 3:00 pm. HHW is located at 131 NE 46th Street, Topeka, KS.

Statement from City Manager Trout

The City of Topeka continues to work through the investigation into the use of force that was generated during the arrest of Tamiko Mitchell on August 23. We are aware that the Facebook post about her interaction with a police officer is causing concern in our community. The Topeka Police Department is conducting their internal investigation into the use of force and we want you to know that we remain committed to being transparent throughout this process. At the conclusion of the investigations, findings will be released to the public when possible.

In this case and with any use of force that is generated during an arrest, a supervisor is notified immediately and they arrive on scene to speak to the citizen involved in the use of force. In this instance, the Shift Commander responded to the scene, which starts the official internal Use of Force Review Board process. This extensive review process goes through multiple layers to ensure the use of force was done legally, within policy and in accordance with our training procedures. This process is currently underway and has been since the arrest took place on August 23. You can find more information on the Topeka Police Department’s Use of Force Policies on the website: https://www.topeka.org/tpd/topeka-police-policies/

“The City of Topeka is moving as quickly as possible to complete the investigation.  We take this incident very seriously and are committed to a fair and complete investigation of the facts related to Ms. Mitchell’s incident and injury,” said City Manager Brent Trout.

The Independent Police Auditor, Ed Collazo, will conduct an independent investigation of the incident. We understand the community’s desire to see the body worn camera video. The City of Topeka will be releasing the body worn camera video of the incident once legal requirements are met.

City Manager Brent Trout contacted a representative of Ms. Mitchell to request an opportunity to meet with her, that request has not been accepted at this time.

Operation Food Secure Mobile Food Sites

Operation Food Secure is a joint initiative between the Topeka Rescue Mission, the City of Topeka, and United Way of Greater Topeka and several other partners with organizations, churches, and neighborhood groups to distribute food boxes to those in need in neighborhoods across Northeast Kansas. The City of Topeka will host mobile food sites in specified neighborhoods through September and October.

“Many families in Topeka are struggling and we want to ensure that no one in our community goes to bed hungry at night,” said Director of Community Engagement Monique Glaudeˊ. “I am grateful to all of our partners who have stepped up and done the work to make sure our community is fed.”

Topeka Rescue Mission also offers traditional food distribution on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9am to 2pm. Please drive to the Northwest end of the Distribution Center (401 Norris) where you will be able to stay in your car and receive assistance.

If you are interested in volunteering you can contact LaToya Burnett at lburnett@topeka.org or (785) 368-3663. If you are interested in hosting a site in your community and would like to serve as an Operation Food Secure Neighborhood Site Captain, please contact Marissa Dake at mdake@trmonline.org.

You can also visit these links to sign up as a volunteer:

September Volunteer link: http://bit.ly/SeptOFS

October Volunteer link: http://bit.ly/OctOFS

 

See the attached flyer for dates and site locations for the Operation Food Secure Mobile Food Sites.

Small Business Grant Fund

The City of Topeka is offering a Small Business Grant Program for 2020. Any business that employed between 1-25 persons as of March 1st, 2020 is eligible for the program. The applicant can apply for up to $20,000 in assistance for eligible expenses. The owner of the business must be low to moderate income (LMI) or employ low to moderate income person(s).

HUD defines LMI as no more than 80% of the median family income for the area. Please refer to chart on Page 1 of application form.

The purpose of the Small Business Grant Program is to provide operating assistance to business owners to continue the operations of independent small businesses and keep residents employed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the City is utilizing federal funding through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, all operating assistance must be utilized under federal regulations. Completed applications will be accepted on or after October 1, 2020. Applications will be accepted continuously until funding has been depleted.

“The City of Topeka is grateful to work with our federal and local partners on stretching the safety net for our small businesses during recovery. Particularly so our most vulnerable population can keep working through these unprecedented times,” said Planning Director Bill Fiander.

Grant funds can be put towards the following expenses that occurred after March 17, 2020:

  • Payroll
  • Rent/Mortgage,
  • Utilities
  • Loss of Inventory
  • And any purchases needed that were COVID-19 related, such as food packaging supplies, PPE equipment, changes required to work station to maintain social distancing, etc.

Applicants will have until October 20, 2021 to use the grant funds. Minority and Women owned businesses will receive priority in the selection process, and 25% of the total grant allocation will be set aside for MBE/WBE businesses. Grants can’t duplicate funding requested and received through other federal sources or programs. Grant funds cannot be used to pay off debt.

 

 

 

Municipal Court Closure

The Topeka Municipal Court will close at 12:00 p.m. on Thursday August 27th due to an employee testing positive for COVID-19. The Municipal Court will be fully closed August 27th and 28th for a deep cleaning. All court dockets will be cancelled from August 27th through September 7th. Persons scheduled to appear during this timeframe will be mailed a notice of hearing for another court date at least thirty days out. Please note that court dates can be verified and payments can be made via the court’s online public access portal at www.topeka.org/municpalcourt.com. The court will be open in a limited capacity the week of August 31st to September 4th for defendants to recall arrest warrants, reset payment plans, set up different payment options, and file documents.
The Municipal Court will reopen fully on Tuesday, September 8th. The public can contact the

Mayor De La Isla’s Statement on Unifying Our Community

Last week the Topeka Human Relations Commission (THRC) published a document on its webpage titled the “Human Relations Commission Policing Recommendations,” which proposed various changes to the Topeka Police Department’s current policing practices. The City of Topeka wholly supports the mission of the THRC to promote justice and cultural understanding, and to improve relationships among all citizens of Topeka. However, these recommendations were not presented to nor approved by the Mayor or City Council prior to publication, and do not represent the opinions or beliefs of members of the governing body. To avoid confusion and misrepresentation of the City’s police practices, the City has removed this document from the Topeka Human Relations Commission webpage.

“The City remains dedicated to supporting all members of its police department while ensuring that the act of law enforcement is carried out with fairness and justice to all residents of Topeka,” said Mayor Michelle De La Isla. “I call on all Topekans to come together at this time and address these issues with the kindness and civility that Topekans are known for.”

The role of the Topeka Human Relations Commission is to conduct outreach and educational activities that promote justice and cultural understanding, and improve relationships among all citizens of the City of Topeka. Each board and commission is an advisory group that provides input and advises on current polices and issues within various departments in the City of Topeka. All boards and commissions for the City of Topeka are made up of volunteers who apply for open seats. More information on boards and commissions can be found here: https://www.topeka.org/government/boards-commissions/

The City of Topeka is holding a special City Council Meeting to discuss police and community relations on Tuesday, August 25th at 6:00 p.m. Any individual who would like to provide public comment in person or via Zoom can contact the City Clerk’s office at cclerk@topeka.org or (785) 368-3940.