The city of Escondido is getting COVID-19 related funding, all from the $2.2 trillion federal CARES Act.
• CBDG/CV, $1,070,024
• ESG/CV $552,803 in phase 1 and $3,934,624 for phase 2
• County CARES funding for cities, $2,713,486
County CARES funding
At its June 24 meeting, the Escondido City Council approved a budget adjustment to accept $2,713,486 in Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding from the federal government via the County of San Diego.
May 19 the County Board of Supervisors voted to allocate a total of $25 million of the County’s portion of CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds to the 17 cities that did not receive a direct allocation from the federal government. Funds were allocated based on population. The City of Escondido’s allocation is $2,713,486.
CARES Act limits the funds to cover expenses incurred due to the pandemic. The funds cannot be used to backfill lost revenues to the City. The city is required to submit a plan outlining how it will spend the money.
So far, the city has incurred $600,000 in public health related expenditures that are considered reimbursable under the act. Of that $600,000 the city spent about $78,000 for supplies and equipment for measures taken during the pandemic.
An example: The County requires that an employee be present if a park is reopened to the public to monitor and enforce social distancing. If that employee isn’t available the park must remain closed. The city will use $25,000 to pay for a fulltime park ranger. This is a new position which will be responsible for enforcing social distancing, the wearing of facial coverings, the use of recreational facilities and playgrounds.
The city staff is drafting a proposed plan for spending the remainder of the funds. Priorities they are looking at include: “enhancing teleworking, video conferencing, additional equipment required due to COVID-19 and various economic development related opportunities to assist local businesses and residents in recovering from the emergency,” according to the staff report.
Deputy City Manager Bill Wolfe told the council that the city is also receiving CDBG funding for $1,070,024 in phase one with the amounts for phases two and three to be determined.
This money will be divided into several funds that are all intended to benefit low and moderate income residents.
$89,780 for Legal Aid Society of San Diego (“LASSD”) which is the city’s fair housing provider, and also provides low-income clients with free civil legal advice and counsel, referrals, and legal representation. These Legal Aid costs have increased markedly due to inquiries about the city’s moratorium on evictions and other landlord-related issues. “Litigation is the last resort,” he said.
Wolfe told the council, “We are encouraging our landlords and tenants to work together to find common solutions typically through mediation.” He added, “This will represent the tenants and try to protect their rights and to help them avoid homelessness. Legal Aid will assess whether tenants are eligible under the eviction moratorium; analyze their financial situation and housing circumstances and evaluate realistic payment plans for the tenant. Additionally low income eligible tenants can be referred to other legal aid housing teams for case management services.”
$16,835 for Meals on Wheels of San Diego County. This provides free meals to persons 62 and older who are homebound and need services related to COVID. Currently 15 Escondido residents have signed up for the program, which is funded until October.
Wolfe noted they are also recommending funding the City of Escondido Senior Nutrition Program for $205,000 from the CDBG-CV funding. He said, “the city offers a congruent setting in nutrition program it at our Park Ave Community Center but in accordance with the County health directive the senior nutrition program had to close during the COVID.” The program had to retool to continue serving seniors. The meals were packaged up and delivered to the homes based on the mobility of the participant, causing costs to increase by $120,000 or more above the normal budget due to increased packaging and delivery and labor costs
He added, “Additionally the wait list for the program is grown considerably now. We’re serving an additional 60 people per day and the cost of that is going to be about another $85,000.”
$80,000 for Neighborhood Improvement Projects. These new projects help to prevent, adapt to and recover from COVID-19. “Neighborhood improvements are the cornerstone of our CDBG budget,” said Wolfe. The $80,000 now “will allow us to act nimbly when neighborhood in business opportunities emerge.”
$678,409 for the extension of the City’s Homeless Emergency Aid Program (“HEAP”) Escondido Homeless Case Management program. The City contracts with Interfaith Community Services to hire a social worker, and coordinates with Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving (“COPPS”) unit. This unit consists of a lieutenant, a sergeant and four officers. A psychology clinician also rides with the team to deal with persons who may have mental health issues.
“They are dealing daily, almost their whole shift, with homelessness prevention,
The program just concluded its first year and has been extended for a second year. However, after that there can be no other extensions under the federal program. The city’s Homeless Case Management Program will allow the program to be continued beyond the two years, said Wolfe.
Interfaith also provides homeless prevention services through this program. Interfaith has been active employing the County’s hotel program to offer homeless individuals a motel room during the pandemic. Wolfe warned that without advanced planning, many of these people might be forced back on the streets before the pandemic is over. The staff report noted: “Rapid Rehousing effort will help individuals to find permanent housing through rental assistance and continued case management. In addition, the City is assured of the efficient, knowledgeable expenditure of these funds by utilizing Interfaith as the front line provider.”