The Santa Clara City Manager estimates the coronavirus pandemic will likely increase this year’s budget deficit to between $8 million and $10 million.
Due to economic impact on the City’s transit occupancy, sales and property taxes, the shortfall will be greater than expected, City Manager Deanna Santana told the City Council at its Tuesday meeting. Additionally, Santana estimates 2021’s budget — originally slated to be a $4.8 million deficit — will now be between $18 million and $22 million.
Although the City has an $80 million one-time reserve to help bridge the gap, Santana said city employees will now have to shift focus from growth to maintaining services. With the shelter at home order extended at least until May 3, the City has also instituted a hiring freeze.
Santana said the proposed budget will return to the Council in May.
According to data available Tuesday night, Santa Clara County has 848 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 28 deaths. Since March 13, 1 million people in California have filed for unemployment.
Locally, City employees are trying to mitigate the negative impact on Santa Clarans. The City’s food distribution program is in full swing, delivering nearly 700 weekend meals to children and seniors. Santana said the goal is to deliver 8,000 meals this week.
Meal distribution for children is 2 to 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Don Callejon School, 4176 Lick Mill Blvd. and for seniors 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday at the Senior Center, 1303 Fremont St.
Additionally, Silicon Valley Power is providing a one-time $30 environmental discount.
Mayor Lisa Gillmor said reports of harassment against Asians — due to some calling coronavirus the “Chinese virus” — are unacceptable, urging anyone aware of such behavior to contact police.
“We must condemn all sorts of discrimination and stand in solidarity with all members of our community while together we face the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “Let’s now all remember that now is a time for unity and solidarity and not stigmatization.”
The Santa Clara Convention Center is being converted into a federal medical center that will serve less-acute cases of COVID-19 to help free up space in hospitals for more severe cases. While the City is “still getting clarification,” Santana said the center could begin seeing patients as early as Wednesday and be in full operation by next week.
City Slated To Get Approximately $1 Million In Stimulus Money
Santa Clara will also likely get extra federal money for its housing program because of coronavirus.
Jonathan Veach, Housing Manager, told the Council that the City will likely receive roughly $1 million toward its Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program as part of the federal government’s $2 trillion stimulus.
Veach presented the housing department’s five-year plan on how it plans to spend Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant money, which includes CDBG money.
The City gets roughly $1.4 million annually from HUD to fund programs.
Most of that money goes toward the housing department’s tenant based rental assistance program, which subsidizes families at risk of falling into homelessness. The plan for the next five years is the same as it was for the previous five years, Veach said.
Santa Clara has the same requirements to get HUD money as a much larger city, such as San Jose, which gets a much larger amount of money, Veach said. Because of this, he said, the City tends to keep its focus tight, pouring the money into a few essential programs.
Pilar Furlong, Chief Community Resources Officer at the Bill Will Center — which receives money from the HUD grants, urged the Council to use surplus stimulus money on rental assistance.
“For those who are living paycheck-to-paycheck, the loss of employment due to the COVID-19 requirements or government orders has been devastating,” she said.
The approval of the plan was the lone agenda item. The Council unanimously approved noting and filing the report, which will return May 5.
The Council meets again Tuesday, April 7 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.