San Antonio residents have a wide array of ideas on how to spend $229 million in COVID-19 relief funds, ranging from funding workforce development for soon-to-be-released incarcerated individuals, funding recruitment and training for court-appointed volunteer child advocates for foster youth, and closing disparities for people with disabilities.
San Antonio was awarded $326.9 million by the federal government through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for the city’s continued recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. City leaders allocated $97.5 million of that “to stabilize the city budget and address immediate needs,” according to a news release.
For the rest of the money - $229.4 million - the city encouraged the public to submit ideas through a series of town hall meetings in November. The last opportunity for input is a telephone town hall on Monday, Nov. 29 at 6 p.m. Learn more here.
City council is required to finalize a plan by January 2022.
According to a news release from the city, the federal funds are eligible for use in four categories:
- COVID-19 relief
- Replenishment of revenue loss for government services
- Premium payment for essential workers who provide essential services
- Investment towards water, sewage, and broadband telecommunications infrastructure
The city’s plan for the funds is focused on achieving five objectives, the news release said:
- Resolving urgent and critical community issues
- Investments in one-time projects until 2026
- Investments in resolving inequities and disparities
- A focus on financing transformational projects
- Partnership leveraging.
We’ve highlighted some questions and answers from the Town Hall meetings. Scroll down to watch videos of the meetings
From the Nov. 9 Town Hall meeting
Question: Victoria Garcia, who has worked for the city’s Department of Arts & Culture for 18 years: “What kind of workers meet the criteria to receive the premium payment?”
Response: Maria VillaGomez, Deputy City Manager: The city council is currently conducting an analysis on which workers would receive premium payments for their work during the pandemic.
Question: What kind of small business investment is being envisioned?
Response: Maria VillaGomez, Deputy City Manager: The city meeting on Nov. 17 will be hosted by The Small Business Advisory Commission to hear what small businesses need assistance with.
Question: Brooke Kearney, Chief Mission Officer of Morgan’s Inclusion Initiative of Morgan’s Wonderland: “We are just curious as to where the city is at in regards to disability services and how the city is prepared to respond with ARPA funds in relation to disparities that currently do exist for those with disabilities in the past 18 months and 24 months that have compounded those issues and how the city is prepared to work with the nonprofits in the community that have established a great reputation and are prepared to take on that challenge.”
Response: Maria VillaGomez, Deputy City Manager: After gathering input from community nonprofits on their specific needs and priorities, the city council will deliberate and set the priorities for the proper appropriation for awarding ARPA funds to nonprofits.
Question: What amount of money will be used to support homeless people and how will it be used?
Response: Maria VillaGomez, Deputy City Manager: The city is partnered with Haven For Hope, a non-profit that supports the homeless community. The city also provides funds to various non-profits who provide services to help the homeless community. The city is also open to considering public input on ways to provide different programs to help the homeless or if the city should increase the amount of funds it provides to support the homeless.
From the Nov. 13 town hall meeting:
Comment: Audrey Fischer, a resident of Southside San Antonio: “I just think that when we decide we are going to do all this online stuff that we know that there is a population right here within three miles that do not ever connect with you because they made a decision or they can’t afford a cellphone and/or they don’t have internet. Their entire communication is based on the radio only. So one, I’m all for improving broadband as long as it actually goes towards helping people, meaning you can’t build broadband and make it so expensive that nobody can afford it.”
Comment: An individual speaking on behalf of merchants from the historic market square shopping area asked the city to consider giving considerable funding to small businesses such as market square to financially recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Response: Maria VillaGomez, Deputy City Manager: The city has not yet determined the amount of funds that will go towards assisting small businesses.
Comment: Colleen Ferguson, Director of Strategic Partnerships & OST Data at SA Youth asked the city to consider using ARPA funds for at-risk youth development and after-school programs such as the nonprofit SA Youth.
From the Nov. 15 town hall meeting
Comment: Beverly Watts Davis, Chief Operating Officer of Westcare Foundation: The city should consider using funds to create workforce development programs for 6,000 soon-to-be-released incarcerated individuals in San Antonio who are currently on probation and parole.
Watch Video of the Meetings
November 6, 10:30 a.m.
November 6, 3 p.m.
November 9, 7 p.m.
November 10, 7:00 p.m.
November 13, 10:30 a.m.
November 15, 7 p.m.