Concord, CA — In anticipation of $1.6 million in “pass through” coronavirus aid, the Concord City Council looked to help small businesses, renters and online students at the Aug. 4 meeting.
Congress passed the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act last spring. According to Concord Economic Development director Guy Bjerke, the new California budget contains provisions to pass that money on to cities and counties.
In July, Mayor Tim McGallian and Councilwoman Carlyn Obringer formed an ad hoc committee to create a funding strategy. Bjerke said they held three meetings, reviewed staff research and conducted outreach to community stakeholders.
Four key disbursement areas
On Aug. 4, the council directed $725,000 for small business grants to cover COVID-19 losses. The Chamber of Commerce will administer the program, which could support up to 130 businesses.
“This is limited to $5,000 per business, with restrictions on eligibility to make sure it goes to the small brick and mortar establishments,” Councilman Edi Birsan reported in a Facebook post.
The council also allocated $450,000 to reimburse the city for coronavirus expenses, including preparing the city for online operations as well as hotel housing for the homeless during the pandemic.
Shelter Inc. is scheduled to receive $375,000 for a rent relief program, which will supplement a Community Development Block Grant the council authorized in June. “It is expected to support up to an additional 45 participants, with priority given to families with children and senior citizens,” Bjerke said.
Another $50,000 is targeted for improving access to technology to help with online education, in partnership with the Mt. Diablo Unified School District. “This is not a school parking lot program but actual Wi-Fi direct to home areas underserved that have a bunch of children for schooling,” Birsan said.
Bjerke said the federal funding will be allocated in several installments, but the city will “cash flow” it to make most of the money available up front.
Looking at social services
George Fulmore of the Monument Democratic Club said he was disappointed with the council’s use of the funds.
“Our council chose to spend less than one-quarter of the $1.6 million for Concord residents who really could use the money,” he said. “Instead, the council showed that it is, in fact, primarily driven to serve the Concord business community and the Chamber of Commerce – not every-day residents in need.”
Birsan advocated diverting $100,000 from the small business fund to the CORE (Community Outreach and Engagement) team that works with the homeless. However, other council members disagreed.
“The feeling was that the matter would be discussed at the town meeting next Wednesday on Zoom with the county homeless and mental health people and that some direction may come at that,” Birsan said.
The 6:30 p.m. Aug. 12 Town Hall is a continuation of the July discussion on policing, where many residents advocated for more social service support. Panelists will include Lavonna Martin, director of Contra Costa County’s Health, Housing and Homeless Services; Suzanne Tavano, the county’s director of Behavioral Health; Gigi Crowder, the county’s executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI); county Supervisor Karen Mitchoff; and Concord Police Chief Mark Bustillos.
Residents who want to participate in the webinar must register in advance at cityofconcord.zoom.us/webinar/register/5415961430484/WN_OFz7zo_yR-6ZVP0cp3UAfA or submit questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.