Santa Ana directs millions of federal bailout funds to community services

Santa Ana just received an additional $64 million in federal coronavirus rescue funds in the bank this summer and city officials plan to spend a good chunk of it on community services and programs.

City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to appropriate the second half of $128 million in COVID relief funds and to approve their updated “Revive Santa Ana” initiative — the city’s plan on the how to spend the nearly $130 million federal bailout.

“Really happy that second bundle of money is here, and really we’re just appropriating the second one — I guess $64 million is what it is — so I see that as a good thing,” the mayor said. Vicente Sarmiento during Tuesday’s council meeting.

Community leaders in Orange County and Santa Ana are expressing support for how city council members allocated the money.

Santa Ana resident Bulmaro “Boomer” Vicente said the way the city uses the money for services such as increased access to food and rental assistance programs is a good reflection of the needs of the Santa Ana community.

“It’s definitely big community needs that have been exacerbated, especially during the pandemic, you know, we’ve seen rents go up and housing has become a huge issue,” Vicente said in an interview on Wednesday.

The money comes from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), a federal bailout bill that sends $350 billion to state, local, territorial and tribal governments.

[Read: Some OC Cities Use Federal Bailout Money on Residents, Others on Employee Perks]

The US Treasury Department released its final rules on how the money can be used this year, including: replacement of lost income, investment in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure, bonus for essential workers and public health responses COVID.

The final rules went into effect on April 1.

Cyclists cycle through a neighborhood in Santa Ana. Credit: JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Santa Ana received its first half of its allocation in 2021 and the second half in June.

Officials are investing all of the money there in their “Revive Santa Ana” plan intended to provide COVID-19 relief through resident resources such as rental assistance, as well as access to food and a better access to libraries.

Hector Bustos, the communications director of Chispa – a local community organization – said in an interview on Wednesday that investing in public health was essential.

“Santa Ana has been one of the cities hardest hit by COVID-19 and this impact has really, really opened our eyes to see a lot of issues that many in our community face,” Bustos said. “The city council has really assessed the needs of the community.

Marisol Ramirez, director of programming for OC Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD), said in an interview Wednesday that other cities should pay attention to Santa Ana’s spending priorities.

“We would have liked to see this happen, for example, in the city of Anaheim – a plan of this magnitude to really invest in local libraries, improve education, as well as direct services, at a time when we are still recovering. , post-pandemic,” she said.

“I think we will see the improvements in the decades to come for Santa Ana and its people.”

Ramirez said these community expenditures produce an overall benefit for residents.

“When you invest in communities like this, you see crime go down, you see happier families, because they thrive, not only meeting their basic needs, but they also thrive financially,” she said. declared.

Credit: Matt Gush / Shutterstock.com

The money is split between five spending categories, the bulk of which is for “critical infrastructure”.

City officials are allocating more than $51 million for critical infrastructure, including $16.5 million to transform the city’s main library and $14 million to renovate the city’s community centers. $3.5 million is also used for broadband access.

More than $34 million is allocated to public health and safety, including more than $11 million for additional park space in the city and more than $5 million to strengthen property compliance programs.

Santa Ana Commercial Property Compliance Program is intended to revitalize commercial properties financially impacted by the pandemic and the money would go towards anti-graffiti measures, landscaping and irrigation, improved lighting and painting, and more.

The public health and safety allocation also includes $1 million for enhanced park safety and more than $3.1 million for rapid response services for the homeless.

At Tuesday’s city council meeting, Councilman Jonathan Hernandez suggested a $1 million increase in the plan’s funding for mental health services, bringing the total to $2 million.

“Recently someone committed suicide in El Salvador Park and every time someone feels like there is no other way out it is a tragic loss for our community and health mental health continues to be an ongoing topic of conversation,” he said.

Councilman Phil Bacerra pushed back on moving money in the plan to increase mental health funding.

“I wouldn’t support the increase just because I want to see where it’s headed,” he said. “I appreciate trying to bring more money to the subject. I’m not opposed to the subject, but I think we also have to consider what the county provides.

While the board has earmarked the second tranche of funds, spending the money on individual initiatives and programs will require additional approvals by the board.

According to a video from the city on what has been done with the money so far, the city has purchased space on Flower and 10th Street to build a new park.

More than $22 million is being used for direct resident relief programs including food assistance, rent assistance, business assistance, youth programs, digital literacy education and intervention in cases of sexual assault.

Children play on a public sidewalk in downtown Santa Ana. Credit: JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Of that money, more than $14 million goes to an emergency rental assistance program, which, according to a presentation by city staff, is not funded by ARPA.

According to the city’s video, Santa Ana has launched a residents’ stimulus program that provides $300 prepaid gift cards to select low-income households.

“It was really, really critical because a lot of our communities are undocumented residents, and those were heading into the poorer neighborhoods and when the California stimulus package came out, a lot of undocumented people were taken out of it. exempt,” Vicente said.

They also have a business program grant that connects business owners to business seminars and allows them to apply for a $1,000 grant. According to the video, 140 companies participated in the program.

Santa Ana officials are also allocating $10 million to bolster the city’s reserves.

Finally, $8.2 million is used for pandemic recovery, and nearly $4 million is allocated for disinfection and prevention.

The city’s right-of-way remediation and prevention program involves cleaning parts of the city with heavy foot traffic several times a week, according to the city’s video.

Vicente said that while the ARPA funds are temporary, he hopes community investments will continue.

“I really hope we look at the impacts of these programs and what these fundings have had and I really hope we can continue to invest in our community,” he said.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and a body member of Report for America, an initiative of GroundTruth. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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