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City Releases Plan to Restore Programs Slashed Due to Coronavirus Shutdown

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By Jorge Casuso

May 22, 2020 -- Two major afterschool programs will be up and running, park recreational facilities restored and vulnerable renters will be assured of staying in their homes under City programs the Council is expected to restore Tuesday.

The programs and services are part of a restructuring plan unanimously approved by the Council on May 5 to address a looming $224 million budget deficit triggered by the coronavirus shutdown.

The plan set aside a $2 million fund than can be used at the Council's discretion to restore programs and services cut from the budget.

Additional contributions from the City's Housing Trust Fund, federal block grants and recaptured costs bring to $5.9 million the total the Council is expected to allocate.

“City staff have worked creatively and collaboratively to develop a restoration plan that serves to preserve highly valued City services in the midst of the historic crisis caused by COVID-19,” Interim City Manager Lane Dilg said in a statement Friday.

“Based on Council direction and extensive community input, this plan also leverages available federal resources and other funds to keep our public spaces vibrant and our most vulnerable residents safe in their homes as we work together to build our recovery," Dilg said.

The biggest portion of the funding would ensure that residents are fed and housed after the shutdown dealt an economic blow to already vulnerable tenants and the poor.

A total of $2 million in one-time funding from the Housing Trust Fund would help between 250 and 450 senior households struggling to pay their rent stay in their rent-controlled apartments.

Under the proposed plan, the Preserve Our Diversity (POD) program would be bankrolled with Housing Trust money from a 0.5 percent sales tax increase approved by Santa Monica voters in 2016. The program previously used General Fund money.

Another 307 low-and moderate income tenants would receive money to help pay their rent for three months, with $1,605,265 coming from federal Community Development Block Grants funds made available in the CARES Act.

Staff would be paid with another $230,000 from the general fund and $21,534 from a Council discretionary fund previously dedicated for DACA application support.

"If Council approves this use of funds," said City spokesperson Constance Farrell, "a process will begin to set up the necessary partnerships and infrastructure to implement a City-wide assistance program when the local eviction moratorium lifts.

"We will notify the public when the program is operational," Farrell said.

An additional $20,107 would be used to help fund the Westside Food Bank and Meals on Wheels West, and $51,350 would be given to the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles to provide legal aid to some 900 Santa Monica residents.

The plan also sets aside money from the special fund to maintain recreational facilities that will reopen when Los Angeles County lifts its emergency lockdown.

A total of $139,819 would be used to restore the Playground Partnership with the School District that allows Santa Monica families and permitted youth sports groups to use six school sites.

The funding would pay for one permanent and three as-needed positions, according to the plan.

The restored funding also would allow the Santa Monica Swim Center to restore programming with a priority on "individual health and wellness activities," although the hours would be reduced.

The Memorial Park Gym and Skate Park Drop-In Programs, which combined average about 1,000 visits a day, also would be restored, as well as the Community Gardens Program.

In addition to the playfields, popular youth programs including CREST and PAL would be restored under he plan.

The CREST Club, which provides afterschool care for children, would receive $129,396 to support three as-needed positions, while $133,996 in funding would allow the Police Activities League Youth Center to increase its hours.

An additional $20,000 would be used to continue supporting the Parent Connection Group and Familias Latinas Unidas, which have a combined 67 registered participants who meet at Virginia Avenue Park.

In addition to restoring programs critical during the city's economic recovery, the plan calls for funding a program that helps cut down on roadway fatalities and other that promotes alternate modes of transportation.

The plan also calls for spending $183,544 to continue the City's "climate resiliency policy and program work" and $144,990 to fund water conservation efforts.

"We don't want to lose ground in realizing some of the planning and work we have been doing to put us on a path to a sustainable future," Dilg toold the Lookout.

"We want to continue moving forward even in a changed environment," she said.

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