San Antonians say mental health, housing and infrastructure are among the best ways to spend pandemic relief money


SAN ANTONIO – As San Antonio City Council decides how to spend the remaining $ 199.4 million of unallocated American Rescue Plan Act money, community members have made their wishes known.

In a presentation Thursday to council members, city staff presented the results of various polls, town halls and meetings with the Small Business Advocacy Commission in previous months. Housing, infrastructure and economic development were top priorities for community members for up-front spending, as they said quality mental health, housing and child care were among their investments in long term preferred.

The SBAC listed priorities such as access to capital, such as grants or loans; capacity building through vocational training and financial literacy; and supporting the arts and tourism.

The city received $ 326.9 million in ARPA dollars, of which it has already received half. He hopes to get the other half in May 2022.

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The city is allowed to use the money for a variety of purposes, including: to make up for budget losses; pay for the public health response to the pandemic; bonus for essential workers; and water, sewer and broadband infrastructure works.

The city has already set aside $ 97.5 million to help fill budget holes due to lost revenue over three fiscal years. The council also set aside $ 30 million to help people behind on their electricity and water bills.

City staff on Thursday recommended setting aside $ 35 million for the city’s response to COVID-19, $ 35.95 million for “immediate” community needs and $ 128.45 million for “Impact investments”.

BONUS POSSIBLE FOR CITY WORKERS

City staff put forward two “pay on premium” options for city workers, which several council members had requested.

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Based on their annual income, the first plan would pay employees up to $ 3,000 in bonuses if they worked on-site for the 12 months between March 2020 and March 2021.

This plan would cost $ 10 million and cover 5,920 eligible employees.

City manager Erik Walsh, however, asked staff to run a second plan that would cover all employees – 11,760 of them – and pay up to $ 2,000, depending on their date of hire and their occupation. annual revenue. This plan would cost $ 14.3 million.

“But from my perspective, I think we should treat everyone the same from an employee perspective,” Walsh said.

While not all city employees are following ARPA’s guidelines for bonuses, which are intended for people who had to work in person during the pandemic, city staff say they could justify it by the “income replacement” category.

Some board members called for a third option that would still cover all 11,760 employees but offer a relatively higher premium for the 5,920 who were to come to work.

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City staff noted that none of the other major cities in Texas had so far chosen to use ARPA money for bonuses.

NEXT STEPS

The city council has yet to approve the general expenditure framework. This is expected to come in a vote on February 3 after city council makes adjustments based on Thursday’s discussion.

After that, board members will help determine which programs the ARPA money will fund through various sub-committees.

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