SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) – The San Antonio City Council got its first look at the framework of the COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Plan which outlines how $270 million federal dollars from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, the CARES Act will be used. Funds from the state and other sources will be interwoven or “braided” in as they become available.
The priority is health and safety, and a big chunk of the money will go toward overtime pay for first responders, COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.
Assistant City Manager Colleen Bridger told the City Council during a work session Wednesday that the four pillars of the Recovery and Resilience Plan are workforce development, small business support, bridging the digital divide and housing security. The city already has established a program to help with housing and cash assistance.
There was much discussion about workforce development and training programs for those who lost their jobs or had their salaries reduced because of COVID-19, but Councilman Clayton Perry said the focus should be on businesses.
“As soon as we can get the business sector back up and running, those people will get jobs again and they’ll be able to afford their rent payments, their house payments, their food and transportation costs,” said Perry. “As the governor is opening up our economy, people are wanting to get back, but they don’t have the resources to put into those businesses.”
Councilman Manny Pelaez noted there will be a lot of changes in the way businesses operate, based on what they’ve learned from the coronavirus crisis. Many owners have realized that they can save money on office space, cubicles, utilities, supplies and other amenities by having their employees work from home.
“I think we’re going to see a big punch to the gut in the real estate market and that’s going to send a ripple effect to the rest of the economy,” said Pelaez.
He challenged City Manager Erik Walsh and his staff to come up with new and innovative ideas, and make sure that the COVID-19 funds are “as impactful as possible” so that San Antonio can thrive beyond the pandemic.
“Some days it feels like we’re throwing money down a deep, dark hole and putting lipstick on a pig,” Pelaez said.
Councilwoman Melissa Havrda asked Walsh if the staff can come up with a dashboard “so the public can see the different kinds of funding the city has received, funding sources, what we’re spending the money on and what our balance is, relative to our deficit.”
The Council will take another look at details of the Recovery and Resilience plan next week. A vote is scheduled June 4.