The San Juan Bautista City Council unanimously approved a part-time position on April 14 for a disaster service worker to help local businesses apply for coronavirus relief programs through the $376 billion CARES Act. The position will be certified and be part of an incident action plan that could potentially be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“If we can get all of our businesses enrolled in these two programs in particular [PPP and EIDL], we would have really a much better shot at rebounding once the economy opens back up again,” City Manager Don Reynolds said. He added that other jurisdictions are hiring similar technical support to help local businesses.
In developing the disaster service worker position, Reynolds said he sought input from Marc Fontes, executive director of the Economic Development Corporation of San Benito County. Reynolds said he estimated the job would pay $26 an hour, at 20 hours a week for 20 weeks. The position can be extended if necessary.
The position could be filled as soon as next week, as Reynolds said he interviewed a woman referred by the San Juan Committee. He described the interviewee as someone with a lot of energy, enthusiasm and capability.
The decision to create the job comes one week after council members voted against establishing a $190,000 city emergency fund that would offer grants to local businesses and contribute to the county’s own emergency fund for costs related to COVID-19, such as personal protective equipment. A $1 million emergency fund was set up by the county on March 16.
On April 6, the City Council considered transferring funds from the $4.4 million general fund reserve, which is intended to help the city respond to and recover from emergencies such as natural disasters and economic collapses.
With the federal government rolling out loan programs to help small businesses, council members said it was better for businesses to apply for those programs rather than making the city the first line of defense.
“I think we need to hold off,” Mayor Mary Edge said at the April 6 meeting. “We have no idea what our position will be in a few weeks or months. I think it would be reckless of us to do something like that. We need to think of the whole community and we have an obligation to the city. I don’t think we should do this right now.”
In addition, council members decided on April 6 not to contribute $35,000 from the city to the county’s emergency fund. With that emergency fund, the county hired former Hollister police chief David Westrick to act as public information officer during the COVID-19 pandemic; monies were also used to purchase personal protective equipment such as masks and sanitizer.
“When I asked or suggested that they budget those monies so we know what we were contributing to, no was the answer,” Reynolds said. “They are spending that money as they see fit, so I hesitate to throw our contribution into this black hole.”
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