Long Beach officials have six weeks to decide how to divvy up $40.3 million in federal money, and it must all be spent by the end of the year.
Last Tuesday, July 14, the City Council approved a framework for that money, with nearly half going to offset city government costs fighting the coronavirus pandemic. That $19,130,494 will pay staff salaries and other expenses from March 15 to the end of the year that aren't covered from other funding sources.
City Manager Tom Modica said that will reduce, but not eliminate, the expected deficit in the city budget.
Where to spend the other half of the money — $14.4 million in community support and another $6,750,000 in business support — is the priority now for Modica's staff, he said. The CARES (Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security) Act money comes with a requirement that all the money be obligated by Sept. 1, and spent by Oct. 30 or show how it will be spent by the end of the year.
"We don't have a lot of time," Modica said. "We have to develop the requests for proposals and programs that will meet the federal procurement guidelines. Then we have to get applications back and get decisions made."
Long Beach has received several other large grants, but most of that money has been targeted specifically at health costs and services for homeless people. There also have been several initiatives to provide support for businesses, Modica added.
In discussion Tuesday before approving the plan, council members focused on the assistance for business owners. Fifth District Councilwoman Stacy Mungo said money should go to as many small businesses as possible; Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price urged bringing BIDs (Business Improvement Districts) into the process; and Ninth District Councilman Rex Richardson stressed that every category had to be looked at through an equity lens when deciding who was going to receive money. In fact, one of the categories is Black Health Education, to receive $1 million.
One area that has not seen much local help so far has been the nonprofit sector, according to Michelle Byerly, executive director of The Nonprofit Partnership. Some organizations received PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loans, and others have been paid some money for services rendered. Still most nonprofits are struggling to survive.
"We do have concerns that nonprofits are not being supported like businesses are," Byerly said. "There is $1 million of CARES funds set aside for nonprofits. But are they going to be eligible for some of that other help too?"
There are 14 categories shown in the spending plan for the $14.4 million of community support. Nine categories split the $6,750,000 in the business support sector. Programs and agencies working to alleviate food insecurity and meals for seniors get $3 million, and $2 million is targeted for homeless sheltering.
The $1 million Byerly referenced is for "Non-Profit Relief." There's another $1.5 million for grants in the arts community.
"There are really two ways for nonprofits who need help to qualify," Modica said. "The first is just being a nonprofit and needing support to survive. The other is to fulfill a need, and get money for doing COVID work. I believe they would qualify in some of the other categories as well.
"For the arts, that will look more like the distribution model of how we've done the arts in the past."
Modica said his staff is working to get a website up quickly — within two weeks — to include program descriptions for each category, the allocation methodology and specifics about federal requirements.
"The biggest thing right now is to get your name on the list for notifications and more information," Modica said. "This is going to be fast, and everyone needs to be ready to move."
To get on that list, go to longbeach.gov/COVID19.
Here are the spending categories and the amount set aside for each.
• Homeless Sheltering, $2 million.
• Housing Condition Improvements, $500,000.
• Basic Needs — Case Managers, $400,000.
• Food Insecurity and Meals for At-Risk and Senior Populations, $3 million.
• Black Education Health, $1 million.
• Older Adult Support, $500,000.
• Mental Health and Domestic Violence, $500,000.
• Public Health Case Management Support, $500,000.
• Early Childhood Support, $1 million.
• Non-Profit Relief, $1 million.
• Youth Leadership & Ambassador Program, $1 million.
• Youth Programming, $500,000.
• Digital Inclusion, $1 million.
• Grants to the Arts Community, $1.5 million.
• Small Business and Non-Profit PPE Distribution, $750,000.
• COVID-19 Small Business Transition & Recovery Grants, $3.6 million.
• Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) Loans & Grants, $1 million.
• Grants for Queuing Systems & Contactless Payment Systems, $500,000.
• COVID-19 Business Call Center, $150,000.
• COVID-19 Economic Inclusion Coordinator, $150,000.
• COVID-19 Small Business Education Budget, $100,000.
• Open Streets Initiative, $300,000.
• COVID-19 Economic Equity Study, $200,000.