Brand Rolls Out Plan to Spend $92 Million in COVID-19 Funds
Mayor Lee Brand has laid out his plan to spend $92 million of federal funding from the CARES Act.
The city’s spending outline is in three different sections — community investment ($27 million), COVID-19 expenditures ($25 million), and reserves ($40 million).
Also in Politics 101:
- City to spend money on COVID-19 testing.
- Other highlights from the council meeting.
- Police budget presentation is Monday.
Funding programs already approved by the city council will receive big bumps. The Residential Housing Retention Grants will go from $1.5 million to $7.5 million; the Save Our Small Businesses grants will see an additional $6.19 million for future rounds. The city previously committed $2.75 million for rounds one and two.
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COVID-19 Testing, Tracing Funding
Another commitment already announced was $10 million for COVID-19 contract tracing and testing. Half of that ($5 million) would be for a mobile testing unit.
The city will spend $5 million on transitional housing for the homeless, meaning paying for hotel rooms.
Tim Orman, who is Brand’s chief of staff, told the council Thursday that those rooms could remain even after the pandemic emergency.
“We could come back later on with other federal money we have, that’s not CARES Act, to rehabilitate these and have an additional 200 rooms that could be used for homeless housing on a permanent basis,” Orman said
Orman also warned what may happen if funds are spent incorrectly.
“If we give the money to a sub-recipient and they spend it on ineligible activities … we are responsible for paying it back, not the sub-recipient. That could create big budget problems down the line,” Orman said.
Fresno’s $92 Million CARES Act Spending Plan
Other Council Highlights
Other items of note heard by the council Thursday:
— Heard a presentation on social justice from the Fresno State NAACP chapter. Council President Miguel Arias then announced a formation of a Commission on Police Reform.
Related Story: After NAACP Workshop, Fresno Agrees to Police Commission
— The council approved, 6-1, a five-year extension with ASM (corporate successor to SMG) to operate the Fresno Convention Center. Garry Bredefeld cast the lone dissenting vote, citing a conflict of interest for ASM, which also operates the Save Mart Center.
— The council approved, 7-0, a plan to allow restaurants to expand onto parking lots, sidewalks, and city streets to allow more space for COVID-19 necessitated social distancing. The city will commit $100,000 for the program. The hope is that the program will be overed by federal stimulus funds.
— Approved 7-0 on the consent calendar to grant City Attorney Douglas Sloan a new contract. While his base bay of $219,862 remains the same, he will receive an extra 25 hours of vacation time.
— Unlike the drama last year, the council approved 7-0 without debate its road priority project for SB 1 (2017) gas tax dollars. Last year, Bredefeld and then-councilman Steve Brandau put up a fight and said that not enough projects in their north Fresno districts received attention.
Putting the ZZZ in Budget
Not all budget presentations are interesting, or necessarily controversial.
Department presentations continued at the city council on Thursday. Finance, information services, personnel, planning, and public utilities offered information on staffing, what each department does, and the financial outlook for the 2020-21 fiscal year.
Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria asked the most questions, carrying the load of the council’s fiduciary responsibility.
The only tinge of heartburn came when Soria asked personnel director Jeff Cardell for an ethnic breakdown of city staff and management.
That request bothered councilman Mike Karbassi.
“I hope we’re not the kind of city that precludes someone from advancing or categorizes them based on ethnicity. I don’t think that should matter, we have a lot of skilled people. I’m a bit taken aback by that,” Karbassi said.
Council president Miguel Arias attempted to assuage Karbassi’s concerns, saying it would be for information only, not judgment.
The council also must consider Brand’s plan for a continuing resolution — to carry over last year’s budget figures until the first quarter of the next fiscal year.
Police Budget Presentation Is Monday. It Will Be Online Only.
Things will pick up Monday when the council discusses the police department budget.
Despite attempts to make the meeting open to the public in-person and hold it at a larger venue, it will remain online only.