UPDATE: Santa Clara City Council allocates $5.59 million windfall
Offering more aid to small businesses is one option the Santa Clara City Council is considering. Photo by Katie Lauer.

The Santa Clara City Council breezily approved allocating $5.59 million Sept. 1 on transportation upgrades, small business assistance, affordable housing and general fund reimbursements.

The funds include $1.59 million from the CARES Act, as well as $5 million from a development settlement from 2018 with neighboring San Jose, which come at a time when the city’s revenues are low and budgets are tight.

Because CARES federal dollars are available to cover costs addressing public health and safety impacts from COVID-19 that weren’t in the city’s budget, the council authorized distributing $590,000 to the Small Business Assistance Grant Program.

First approved in April, the grants gave shuttered nonessential businesses $10,000 in one-time funds, while essential businesses received $5,000 because they could stay open.

The city already has awarded $1.1 million through 155 grants, but that didn’t satisfy demand; the city received more than 800 applications as of Aug. 17.

While the program initially required the funds to be used for rent payments and payroll costs, staff recommended COVID-related safety improvements, such as installing plexiglass barriers, also be allowed.

The remaining $1 million in CARES funding will reimburse the city’s General Fund, which will then provide credits for residential solid waste bills. Those one-time credits will translate to covering six months of planned rate increases.

Courtesy of the City of Santa Clara.

Assistant City Manager Ruth Shikada said the initial proposal included $200,000 reserved for the city’s food distribution program, but new federal funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will assist those efforts instead.

The plan was crafted from recommendations from the city’s three-member Economic Development, Communications and Marketing Committee, which is made up of councilmembers Debi Davis and Kathy Watanabe and Mayor Lisa Gillmor.

“We want to continue to do what we can through this pandemic to help our community the best we can,” Gillmor said. “This is a really good bundle of programs and projects that are going to help us through this.”

Additionally, a $5 million lump sum was up for grabs after Santa Clara and San Jose settled on environmental issues of Federal Realty Investment Trust’s Santana West development.

The suit focused on concerns such as building height aesthetics, traffic impacts and effects on neighboring development from the ongoing project across from Santana Row, especially contending with the historically congested traffic along the Stevens Creek corridor.

The City Council approved $1.4 million for 3.3 miles of bike lanes along Benton Street; $500,000 for pedestrian and traffic warning lights along Lick Mill Boulevard; contributing $1.6 milion toward a 100% affordable housing project at 1601 Civic Center Drive and $1.5 million for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which will provide three months of help paying rent to people earning 60-80% of the Area Median Income to prevent families from losing their homes.

Contact Katie Lauer at [email protected] or follow @_katielauer on Twitter.

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