UPDATE: San Jose delays vote on COVID-related funds
San Jose City Hall is pictured in this file photo.

Millions of dollars in federal funds for emergency housing and food services still hang in the balance for San Jose.

The San Jose City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to delay plans to give out COVID-related funds from the federal government. Nearly $40 million from the city’s $212 million American Rescue Plan money may go to various programs.

Mayor Sam Liccardo submitted a last-minute request to defer the item.

“In light of recent uncertainty in the state’s treatment of tax revenues, I seek to defer council consideration of any allocation of American Rescue Act spending until the resolution of those related fiscal issues,” Liccardo said.

The council directed the city manager to return with recommendations for “essential” programs and services in the meantime.

According to a city memo, $11.5 million would go to the city’s COVID-related food service and distribution efforts, $5 million to child and youth services, $4.5 million to the San Jose Bridge program—a recently expanded homeless trash pickup program—and $3 million for emergency housing.

Councilmembers have their own ideas for the remaining funds. Liccardo, Vice Mayor Chappie Jones and Councilmembers Magdalena Carrasco, Dev Davis and Matt Mahan are proposing $20 million in quick-build transition housing for the homeless, $6 million for 10 full-time SJPD officer positions and $3 million for child and youth services such as childcare facilities, among other proposals.

“We did have a large number of community members wanting to speak,” said Louise Auerhahn, director of economic and workforce policy. “I hope when it does come back, it will be presented in a way and with enough time that the community is able to give input… It was difficult for people to schedule to come today.”

The American Rescue Plan, a sweeping $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package signed into law in March, provides $350 billion overall to state, local, territorial and tribal governments. California’s budget—which was already faring better than expected—has received a $27 billion cash infusion.

Some of the $212 million of San Jose’s ARP allocation has been transferred to various city funds, including $83.4 million to an economic recovery budget, $45 million to the city’s general fund and $2.5 million to the city’s cultural affairs fund.

In a separate series of proposals, Councilmembers Sylvia Arenas and Maya Esparza are asking for more funding for the city’s virtual learning sites program, as well as for an independent auditor to review the handing out of ARP funds.

“We would like (the council) to consider the memos from (Councilmembers) Arenas and Esparza,” said Gabriel Hernandez of community group Si Se Puede Collective. “Our children need and deserve more.”

The city has identified a few priorities in handing out funds, including an increase in funding toward the city’s homeless encampment clearing and cleanup programs, youth programs, WiFi network construction at three East San Jose high schools, funding to construct quick-build emergency housing and an increase in the city’s efforts to feed and deliver groceries to seniors and low-income residents.

More than a dozen members from local union UNITE Here 19 flooded the council chambers asking for a more comprehensive proposal in favor of local unions.

“I think our main concern is making sure there’s equity conversations built into this, and that we’re using this time as an opportunity to build toward racial equity for workers in this area,” Sarah McDermott, spokesperson for UNITE Here 19, told San José Spotlight.

Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

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