Santa Ana is spending $ 80 million on the first phase of a major pandemic recovery plan that could boost the city’s economy by distributing federal funds to residents, businesses, and nonprofits and launching several long-term projects, such as new open spaces , expanded public libraries, and Orange County’s first memorial to people who have died of COVID-19.
The plan, which was approved late Tuesday, called Revive Santa Ana, would send food vouchers to people living in the hardest hit neighborhoods, create new programs for young children, and upgrade some community centers. In addition, the city is planning new recreational opportunities, including a winter ice rink near the Civic Center that will serve as a roller skating rink in the warmer months.
And in what is possibly the most comprehensive pandemic relief plan unveiled in Orange County to date, Santa Ana will also look into setting up its own Department of Health.
These are just a few of the items funded primarily from the first part of $ 128 million that the city received under the U.S. bailout bill, approved by Congress earlier this year. The second half comes next year. Other funding – approximately $ 32.1 million – comes from federal housing and rental grants.
The city administration described their plan as a unique opportunity.
“We are all very blessed. Other municipalities do not have the opportunity to do so, ”said Mayor Vicente Sarmiento. “And we deliver it to the families who need it most.”
Many details still have to be ironed out. For example, the council has allocated $ 4 million to help some residents with local stimulus checks but has not yet decided which census area is eligible. Likewise, the city has not set the amount for the “basic income” checks.
• $ 5.4 million under a bucket called “Recovery from the pandemic“That includes $ 2 million for digital signs in parks, information kiosks, and a translation subscription service, $ 1 million for community mental health services, and $ 200,000 for a feasibility study to investigate the pros and cons of setting up a Santa Ana Health Department, which could help the city rely less on the Orange County Health Care Agency.
• $ 26.8 million in direct assistance programs. That includes $ 14 million in case of emergency Rental assistance – which lasted during the Santa Ana pandemic – and $ 3 million to help troubled small businesses and nonprofits. (Some of the money in this category comes from other sources.)
• $ 16.35 million for health and safety. This includes $ 7.8 million for the expansion of open spaces and parks, $ 3 million for a pedestrian protection project on First Street and Grand Avenue, and $ 1 million for a central farmers market and new community gardens.
• $ 21.25 million for critical infrastructure. This includes $ 7 million for “Central Library Remodeling Including Focus on Early Childhood Education Activities”; $ 3.5 million to investigate and address broadband deficiencies in the city and $ 1.5 million to modernize six community centers: Corbin, Logan, El Salvador, Sandpointe, Santa Anita and Delhi.
• $ 10.18 million to support the city’s public finances. Most of the money in this category – nearly $ 9 million – would go into the city’s reserve to offset hotel and business tax revenues lost during the pandemic
The rescue plan funds are intended to support measures to respond to COVID-19, replace lost revenue, support economic stabilization of households and businesses, and “address systemic public health and economic challenges that have contributed to the unequal impact of the pandemic “, So a. Employees report.
The funds give local governments “significant flexibility” to meet local needs, including “support for households, small businesses, affected industries, key workers and the communities hardest hit by the pandemic. These funds can be used, among other things, to make necessary investments in the water, sewer and broadband infrastructure, ”says an employee report from the city.
Santa Ana spokesman Paul Eakins said the planned spending was in line with guidelines for the funds. City officials, he said, are taking a comprehensive approach to improving the community’s health needs by looking at the bigger picture of Santa Ana, one of the densest cities in the country and also hardest hit by the ongoing pandemic.
“The idea behind many of these is that they address health and economic needs,” Eakins said, referring to the variety of elements in the plan. “It’s not just about responding to the pandemic in a reactionary manner. It addresses the more general issues raised and made clear during the pandemic, such as lack of access to green spaces, health care and internet, or being able to stay safe at night in a neighborhood – many issues that ultimately affect people’s health and makes them more prone to things like a pandemic.
“There’s the economic part too,” added Eakins. “Anything we can do to make companies easier to do business and more accessible to the public will have economic benefits.”
Councilor Phil Bacerra said Wednesday that the priorities defined by Revive Santa Ana are linked to COVID-19. Santa Ana has few parks, so “any opportunity to add parking space or improve the parking space we have is absolutely related to Covid,” he said. And improvements in broadband, Bacerra added, will be highlighted in the new plan after learning during the pandemic that the city “did not have adequate infrastructure to help our children (with online learning)”.
Meanwhile, Santa Ana appears to be the first in Orange County to provide money – $ 200,000 – for a kind of memorial to honor those who died of the virus.
“Over 800 residents in Santa Ana lost their lives to COVID-19. And that number has increased in the last few weeks, ”said Councilor David Penaloza.
“I know seven personally, whether they are close relatives or friends of my family, who have died of COVID-19.
“Because Santa Ana was hit so hard, it warrants a memorial,” added Penaloza. “We need something that gives families a place to mourn and remember loved ones. You deserve it.”