SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) – As the San Antonio City Council grapples over how to spend federal funds in the fight against COVID-19 and the recovery process, a couple of council members argue that there’s not enough money going to small businesses.
Assistant City Manager Colleen Bridger presented a $191 million recovery and resilience plan to city council Thursday, which includes $80 million for workforce development, $50 million for housing security, $33.1 million for small businesses and $27.3 million for digital inclusion.
Councilman Clayton Perry says that’s not nearly enough for small businesses.
“I think our whole strategy needs to be shifted more toward small businesses and away from some of these other areas,” said Perry. “That’s what this money was meant for. Stimulate the economy.”
The District 10 councilman says if businesses get the help they need, they can rehire their employees, and those workers will be able to pay their bills and their rent or mortgage. While some members of the council stress the importance of training San Antonio residents who lost their jobs because of the pandemic to work in other areas where they can become essential employees, Perry believes many just want to return to their former jobs.
“This is a one-shot deal. If we don’t spend this money wisely and get this economy going again, it’s like throwing that money away, and that’s what I’m afraid of,” said Perry.
The $80 million dollars for workforce development would be used to train 10,000 individuals, with the focus on high-demand jobs. Bridger told the council that while the people are going to school, they’ll get a stipend. Some of the funds would be used to provide temporary child care services.
Councilman John Courage also suggested shifting some of the money from workforce development to small businesses. He said funding for job training can come from future budgets. Courage also questioned why the $33.1 allocated for small business relief is focusing on those with 20 employees or fewer. He said many local businesses with 50 to 100 employees are hurting, too.
The city is getting a total of $270 million from the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, in addition to other federal funds to help in the recovery process.
Much of the money will cover the cost of the ongoing response to the novel coronavirus outbreak. That includes payroll expenses, COVID-19 testing and protective equipment, such as PPE and hand sanitizer for first responders and city employees.
City Council will vote on the federal stimulus funding plan next week.