Faced with a protracted pandemic wreaking havoc on the local economy, Mountain View city council agreed on Tuesday to spend more money on tenant assistance and small business loans.
The unanimous decision is the latest round of funds to be pumped into the city’s COVID-19 relief effort, and is a direct result of the city’s $ 1 million CARES Act funding. Of the money, $ 500,000 was immediately funneled to the Community Services Agency (CSA) to help families struggling to stay housed while out of work.
The council has also earmarked an additional $ 250,000 in zero-interest loans to small businesses struggling to survive since the pandemic began earlier this year, though it is unclear how popular the program will be. Some council members argued that the city needs to change gears and start providing outright grants if it is to see small businesses survive.
To date, much of the city’s COVID-19 support has come in the form of tenant relief, burning millions of dollars since March to help tenants who are at risk of losing their homes because they are homeless. work due to the pandemic. County officials and leaders of nonprofits called the problem expulsion time bomb awaiting departure, while tens of thousands of tenants are behind on rent payments.
Although data is scarce on whether a ticking time bomb is arriving here in Mountain View, the city has spent a lot to avoid the problem. By Tuesday, the city had paid $ 2.6 million into the tenant assistance program, which helped 963 households with at least one month’s rent. Checks are made directly to homeowners and cost an average of $ 2,000.
With $ 700,000 remaining in the program and 403 applications still pending, it is expected that CSA will spend the remainder of the money soon. To this end, council members have committed $ 500,000 of CARES law money to the CHW to use as they see fit, which will likely be used for rent relief and other support programs. emergency financial assistance.
Along with helping tenants, the city implemented a small business loan program that provided 71 businesses with zero-interest loans of $ 7,000, repayable over three years. On Monday, the program was relaunched with $ 277,000 remaining in the fund, with the maximum loan amount doubling to $ 15,000.
Council members agreed to fund the small business loan program with $ 250,000 of CARES law money, but not without hesitation. City Councilor Lucas Ramirez said the county could very well launch its much larger $ 100 million small business assistance program in the coming weeks, raising fears that the city will fund a duplicate and unnecessary service to small businesses. He said the city should be prepared to donate this money to other needs if that happens.
Council members Lisa Matichak and John McAlister have said they would prefer a small business grants program. McAlister, a business owner, said he too was going through the hardships of COVID-19, and many might be reluctant to take on more debt when there is no guarantee they will be able to pay it back. .
“I think the grant program is actually the best way because you give people immediate help,” McAlister said. “It’s immediate, it fixes some issues and I hope it can get you through the next month or two.”
McAlister also expressed concern that the minimum wage increases will put even more pressure on business, and the city may want to reconsider that as well.
“When you see small businesses coming out, that will be part of the reason they do it,” McAlister said. “Wages are going up and income is not coming in.”