San Antonio City Council on Wednesday reviewed the framework for the COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Plan, which will help prioritize federal, state, and other funding as the City responds to the coronavirus pandemic and the economic wreckage left in its wake.
This “living document” will direct the $270 million Coronavirus Relief Fund allocated to the City through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and “braid” in other funding sources as they become available and as other expire, said City Manager Erik Walsh.
Based on Council feedback Wednesday, City staff will return next week to present a specific budget proposal for CARES Act funding. That will include an estimated $75 million for direct emergency response such as testing, tracing, and overtime for first responders. Council is slated to vote on those allocations June 4.
“The [relief fund allocation] is a big part of it … but I think this will continue to be a potential living document and guide and road map for us,” Walsh said.
The guiding principles for the plan – public health and safety, equity, braided funding, community resilience, and well-being – are a continuation of those expressed in the City’s response to the pandemic, said Assistant City Manager Colleen Bridger. Click here to download her presentation and here to watch the videoconference meeting.
The plan identified 15 strategies and programs that will address four main program funding priorities: workforce development, small business grants and loans, housing security, and closing the digital divide.
Some of these programs are already established, such as housing and cash assistance, and some need to be created, such as physical and digital information hubs to connect residents and businesses to all the different local, state, and federal assistance available.
All Council members expressed support for the priorities, but some were concerned the City might be trying to spread the money too thin.
Councilman Clayton Perry (D10) said he doesn’t want resource hubs to “chew up” the very resources they are supposed to be allocating to people and business.
The City will be looking to limit overhead and technology costs by redirecting its existing resources, Walsh said. “I may move folks to focus on this effort because it’s frankly the most important thing that we’ve got on our plate right now.”
Council members emphasized the need for small business support – many who have not received help from the federal stimulus.
The City’s response will focus on so-called “microbusinesses” that have 20 or fewer employees, Bridger said. That will include door-to-door outreach, especially to those owned by women or people of color, as they are “most at risk at being left out of some of these resources.”
Other strategic programs proposed by City staff include child care, workforce training for in-demand industries, a joint case management platform to avoid overlap of efforts across agencies, a recovery website to track progress, distance learning projects to provide in-home internet access, additional homeless shelter options, and expansion of domestic violence mitigation programs.
Dozens of partner organizations – such as Alamo Colleges District, Project Quest, Haven for Hope, and United Way – have been engaged in these strategies, many of which will be responsible for their implementation, Bridger said.
An important element of the workforce development piece will be to identify industries that are going to be successful in the post-COVID-19 era and training needed for employees, said Mayor Ron Nirenberg.
“Our hope is that when it comes to returning to full activities in our economy, it’s better and more resilient than before,” Nirenberg said.