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City Council Allocates More than $29 Million in Federal Recovery Funds

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By Jorge Casuso

April 15, 2021 -- The City Council on Tuesday voted to use most of its $29.3 million in federal recovery funds to tackle homelessness, reopen facilities and provide rent relief to Pier and non-profit City tenants.

Most of Santa Monica's share of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds would be used to recoup "a small fraction" of the $224 million in revenues lost during the year-long coronavirus shutdown.

“Your Council and your City administration are focused on how to leverage the most good for the most hurting members of our community with the limited funds available, even with this very welcome stimulus,” Mayor Sue Himmelrich said in a statement after the vote.

“We will use these funds to support our arts and culture organizations and small businesses in their recovery and will continue to focus limited resources on our three community priorities through the biennial budget.”

The priorities established by the Council last month were addressing homelessness, ensuring public spaces are clean and safe and fostering an equitable and inclusive economic recovery ("Council Narrows Focus on Top Priorities," March 15, 2021).

Of the total in federal funding, $5.86 million will be used to help the city's business sector recover. Most of the money -- $5,367,300 -- will be used for a Rent Abatement Program for City tenants staff will design.

The program will provide nine months rent abatement for nonprofit City tenants; six months for small business tenants on the Pier, Beach and other City properties, and three to six months abatement to Bergamot and airport gallery tenants.

The recovery measure also includes a rent freeze for all City tenants in the upcoming fiscal year.

Businesses at the City owned Bergamot Station Arts Center had complained staff's recommendation for a three-month abatement didn't provide enough help ("Bergamot Arts Tenants Worry 'Rent Relief' Not Enough," April 9, 2021).

The program "will require evidence of financial hardship" and "take into account whether tenants are able to access relief from other programs available from federal, State and County programs," staff said.

An additional $255,000 will be used for small business and events grants and support, and $237,700 will be used for Pier Ambassadors during the peak summer season and enhanced sweeping, trash pick up and disinfection on the Pier and beach.

A total of $6.6 million in recovery funds will be used to address homelessness, with most of the money earmarked to enable the City's General Fund to pay $6.35 million in Measure GSH funds into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund in the upcoming fiscal year.

The funding had been withheld from the Trust fund during the current fiscal year ending June 30 to help make up for revenues lost during the shutdown.

The remaining $250,000 in one-time funds will be used to "support efforts to pursue non-congregate shelter and behavioral health priorities for the homeless, officials said.

The allocation comes after the Council directed staff in February to explore creating "non-congregate" shelters in City properties such as parking structures to make it easier to enforce "quality of life" laws ("Santa Monica to Explore New Ways to Tackle Homelessness," February 24, 2021).

A total of $3 million will be used to reopen City facilities and another $750,000 to boost the City's lobbying efforts at the federal level.

The funding allows the City to restore staffing for code enforcement, homelessness and parking revenue compliance, reopen libraries and fund a "language justice program."

The allocation for the language program comes after the City Council last month directed staff to return with an ordinance creating a "biennial language access plan" for Spanish speakers and hire a language access coordinator ("Council Members Seek to Expand Zero Emissions Delivery Zone, Increase Outreach to Spanish-Only Speakers," March 29, 2021).

The remaining $5 million would be used to "support the Beach and Pier Funds due to severe revenue loss in FY 2020-21 and to cover new federally- and State-mandated costs in the General Fund," City officials said.

The proposed Biennial Budget will be published on May 10 at before a study session on May 25, officials said.

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