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City Pours More Money into Pot To Help Local Small Businesses

Money available to Santa Clara small businesses suffering economic hardship during the county’s shelter-in-place order increased by $300,000.

At its Tuesday night meeting, City Manager Deanna Santana updated the Santa Clara City Council on the small business grant program. Originally, the program had earmarked $500,000 to help businesses who have seen business drop off due to the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

However, after receiving more than 200 requests for money a mere 10 minutes after it began accepting applications, City officials opted to increase the pool of money from $500,000 — which, at the behest of Mayor Lisa Gillmor, was already double what was initially suggested — to $800,000.

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Council Member Raj Chahal said he “wholeheartedly” supported increasing the pot of money, which has already served 64 businesses. He suggested finding ways to increase the total still.

“This has been a very good program for our businesses which have been struggling during this time,” he said.

The program is available to businesses with between one and 25 employees, who have a license, are housed in the City and are in good standing with the City who can demonstrate a loss of revenue due to COVID-19.

Non-essential businesses can receive $10,000 while essential businesses can receive $5,000. The money must be used for payroll or to pay rent. The one-time money is first-come, first-served.

Roughly 600 companies have submitted applications. The additional funding will assist between 30 and 60 more businesses.

Assistant City Manager Ruth Shikada said the City is still accepting applications. City employees will contact businesses approved to receive money Wednesday or Thursday each week with money to be dispersed Friday.

Nonprofits without a business license can still keep a place in the queue provided they can show they have applied for one. Money for the program, according to City documents, is made up of $100,000 from the City Council Contingency Fund, $100,000 from City Manager Special Initiatives, $12,000 from Miss Santa Clara and the City Manager’s Office expenditure savings of $315,540.

Shikada said the City hopes to secure private money to continue assisting local businesses.

 

Council Extends Marijuana Ban

Via the consent calendar, the Council also banned commercial and recreational cultivation and commercial distribution of marijuana until the end of February next year.

Although more than 55 percent of Santa Clarans supported Prop. 64 in 2016 to allow marijuana use in the City, the Council has been reluctant to do so. To avoid the regulations on marijuana defaulting to state regulations, the Council originally banned commercial marijuana in May 2019 until the City could establish a regulatory framework. That ban was set to go through June and has now been extended.

The cost of regulation coupled with lower-than-expected revenue being reported from other cities is likely responsible for the extension, as members of the Council have previously cited such reasons for their uncertainty on the topic.

Marijuana delivery from outside the City as well as personal use and cultivation are still permitted.

 

New Police Chief Takes the Reigns

Santa Clara’s newly elected police chief also took his oath of office Tuesday.

Chief Pat Nikolai, who ran unopposed in March, will serve until December. If Nikolai is to stay chief, he will need to win in the November election.

The term’s odd length was necessary after former Police Chief Mike Sellers retired in September, with more than a year remaining in his term. Since then, Assistant Chief Dan Winter has been acting chief, but Winter said he would not seek the position, fearing doing so would create tension in the department.

Both Gillmor and the Police Officers’ Association (POA) supported Nikolai in the election as well as during his failed vie against Sellers in 2016. During his comments following his swearing in, Nikolai thanked Gillmor and Council Member Kathy Watanabe, who he called his “strongest advocates.”

Council Member Debi Davis, whose husband is a member of the POA, called Nikolai “the man,” saying she knew he would “do the right thing for Santa Clara.”

“I feel blessed to be able to lead this department, and I will not let you down,” Nikolai said. “As my yard signs used to say, ‘Neighborhoods First.’ Regardless of what is going on in this world, the Santa Clara Police Department will continue to ensure that you are safe in your homes, and when things return to normal – whatever the new normal is – Santa Clara PD will be protecting you every step of the way.”

 

Consent Calendar Spending

The Council also approved the following spending via the consent calendar:

  • A $967,000-contract with Suarez and Munoz Construction, Inc. for the Agnew and Fuller Parks Rehabilitation Project
  • $199,418, for the Fairway Glen Park Restroom project, contract with SSA Landscape Architects
  • $750,000 for the installation of a High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk Beacon on Scott Boulevard at Harrison Street
  •  $186,634.09 for ramp improvements to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, contract with ADG Builders
  • A $161,995 amendment to a contract with Granicus for closed caption services through Sept. 28, 2023; total compensation not to exceed $672,885
  • An amendment to a contract for management of the Bucks Creek Project licensing to increase the not-to-exceed amount by $50,000 to $1,078,841
  • $1,108,066 for a 5-year contract with Mark43, Inc. for the purchase of a Records Management System

The Council meets again Tuesday, May 12.

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