The City of San Antonio is on track to spend its federal coronavirus relief funds before they expire on Dec. 30. As of the end of August, the City had spent 51 percent of the $270 million it received from the federal government, City officials said Wednesday.

That money has been “braided” in with other funding sources – including from the City’s budget and other federal grants – to fund its COVID-19 response and recovery plan. The plan calls for spending $527.6 million in four areas: housing security, workforce development, small business support, and digital inclusion.

Each initiative is “on schedule and progressing,” City Manager Erik Walsh told City Council on Wednesday during a monthly update on the plan. To balance the plan, Council made an adjustment last month to increase the amount of funding and change eligibility criteria for emergency housing assistance.

Later Wednesday, the City added a data dashboard to its COVID-19 homepage that details the City’s handling of these funds. That page includes its monthly financial reports.

This screenshot shows what the City's new data dashboard regarding public spending on the coronavirus pandemic will look like.
This screenshot shows what the City’s new data dashboard regarding public spending on the coronavirus pandemic will look like. Credit: Courtesy / City of San Antonio

Parts of the plan that are not funded with federal money, such as the $75 million workforce development portion, are considered part of the City’s long-term recovery efforts. This funding doesn’t have an expiration date, so those programs can continue into 2021.

The website will also track program targets, such as number of micro-business grants awarded.

“Currently we’re updating this on a monthly basis and [we will] look to add more information that would be useful to the community,” said Ana Bradshaw, the City’s COVID-19 financial and performance liaison.

The next quarterly report from the City to the federal Office of the Inspector General is due Oct. 13. City Council will be briefed again in November.

City plans for mass vaccination

City officials have been meeting weekly to plan for distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available, said Colleen Bridger, the interim director of the Metropolitan Health District who also serves as an assistant city manager.

They are also working on a plan to communicate with residents about the vaccine and address any hesitancy some residents might have to get it, Bridger said.

“We are planning on using some of the mass vaccination clinics that we’re doing for flu as pilots … for our mass vaccination of COVID-19,” she said. “This will allow us to test what works and what doesn’t work.”

However, even when a vaccine is approved it is not likely to be widely available for several months until it can be mass-produced.

“We think that the supply will actually be more readily available in late spring or summer of 2021,” Bridger said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released preliminary guidelines for health agencies to use when they start distributing the vaccine.

The top priority group includes people who work in critical infrastructure or perform essential services such as health care workers, police, firefighters, and teachers.

“Those will be the individuals who will be given the first opportunity to be vaccinated,” Bridger said.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released these preliminary guidelines for how to prioritize COVID-19 vaccines.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released these preliminary guidelines for how to prioritize COVID-19 vaccines. Credit: Courtesy / City of San Antonio

The next group includes people living in group settings such as jails and prisons, state-supported living centers, homeless shelters, and college universities.

People at high risk for severe illness as a result of COVID-19 will be next, including people at nursing homes, who are 65 years or older, have high risk medical conditions, or are “disproportionately affected because of race, ethnicity or tribal affiliation.”

The lower priority group includes people with limited access to vaccination services such as rural or medically underserved populations and adults who don’t have health insurance.

“This is what we know right now, if this changes, we will let you know,” she said.

Iris Dimmick

Iris Dimmick

Senior reporter Iris Dimmick covers City Hall, politics, development, and more. Contact her at iris@sareport.org