As Long Beach looks toward its post-pandemic future, Mayor Robert Garcia has a $207 million plan to aid in the city’s recovery.
Garcia unveiled his proposal for the Long Beach Recovery Act on Monday, March, 8, which would divide the funding between three priorities: the city’s economic recovery, building a healthy and safe community, and securing Long Beach’s future.
The proposal would be funded with $151 million from the federal American Rescue Plan, as well as other federal, state and county funds. The City Council, which must approve the plan, will discuss it at the panel’s Tuesday, March 16, meeting.
Garcia said Monday — which marked one year since the first coronavirus case was identified in Long Beach — that the plan is necessary for Long Beach to overcome the hardship it has endured over the past year.
“There’s no question,” he said, “this is the most difficult challenge Long Beach has ever faced.”
And the challenge, he said, has been felt by all: Small businesses, workers, students, teachers, families and more. The myriad ways the coronavirus has hurt the city and its residents, Garcia added, call for a multi-pronged approach to recovery.
The first area of focus would be the economy.
“We know that businesses and workers have been devastated throughout this pandemic, and it’s been a difficult time as so many of our small business owners have had to lay folks off, folks have had to go on unemployment,” Garcia said. “The No. 1 thing we heard from the business community was: ‘We need support.’”
So Garcia proposed $51 million to boost the city’s economic recovery, including $5 million for the Clean Long Beach initiative, which would help fund neighborhood and corridor cleanups, trash collection and graffiti abatement. The $51 million would also include:
• $4 million for nonprofits and arts organizations;
• $3.5 million for fee waivers for businesses and nonprofits;
• $2.5 million for economic empowerment zones;
• $2.5 million for small business development;
• $2 million to help close the digital divide;
• $2 million for business improvement districts;
• $1.25 million for tourism; and
• $1 million for youth workforce development.
About $10 million that has already been allocated for restaurants, breweries, bars, personal services and fitness centers would also be included in the $51 million.
For the second area of focus, building a healthy and safe community, the package would offer about $73 million, including $12 million to assist people who are homeless by funding new temporary shelters, more housing options, mobile outreach, restrooms, showers and workforce and social enterprise programs. Violence prevention would also be a key focus, with $4 million in funding for Be Safe park programs, midnight basketball, pilot programs to help people find work after they leave prison and community development programs.
“We already know that unemployment, the closure of many campuses of our schools and other issues around folks not having access to services,” Garcia said, “has caused issues around violence within our community and across the state and country, so we want to make sure we address this head-on.”
This portion of the package would also provide:
• $29 million for tenant assistance;
• $13 million for coronavirus testing and contact tracing;
• $7.4 million for food security and basic needs;
• $5 million for health equity and health outreach programs;
• $2.1 million for early childhood education and childcare; and
• $1 million for mental health programs.
The third area of focus would be securing Long Beach’s future. The package would direct $48 million to replenish the city’s reserves, $30 million to eliminate the 2022 fiscal year budget deficit and $5 million to end the ongoing furloughs in City Hall starting in April.
The pandemic “has been a significant crisis for our city. We have essentially depleted our city’s reserves, and thank God that we had a robust reserve program in place to address the emergency in front of us,” Garcia said. “I can’t express how important this is that we have full reserves to meet the next emergency. And while I know it’s always difficult to set money aside for a rainy day, we must set it aside for the next emergency so we can address it like we have this current one.”
Garcia emphasized, though, that his proposal was just that: A proposal. It’s likely there will be changes, he said, as the City Council discusses it and the community provides input.
And it seems some community organizations already have thoughts on what should change. A group of 15 local advocacy associations — including Khmer Girls in Action, the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and Long Beach Forward — sent a letter to Garcia last week with eight specific requests:
• $700,000 for a city Rental Housing Division;
• About $3.7 million in additional funding for the city’s Right to Counsel program;
• About $5.8 million for a Community Land Trust;
• $2.5 million for an immigrant assistance fund;
• About $2.3 million to strengthen the city’s Language Access program;
• Increased funding for the Long Beach Justice Fund;
• Funding for safe and affordable transportation; and
• More resources for community-identified priorities in previous city reports and initiatives.
“The challenges ahead are not easy to address. Whether we are Black, Latinx, Filipino, Cambodian, seniors, young people, women, renters, homeowners, LGBTQ, disabled, immigrants, or frontline workers, we are all feeling the stress and hardship of this pandemic in different ways,” the letter said. “Yet, we all want to see our neighborhoods and city thrive for future generations.
“The Long Beach Recovery Act (LBRA) is the opportunity for city leadership to ensure we build a more inclusive Long Beach,” the letter continued, “and give every Long Beach resident the chance to live a healthy life.”
But the ultimate decision-maker will be the City Council. The City Council’s Federal Legislative Committee will discuss the proposal at 3 p.m. Thursday, March 11, before the full council discusses it at 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 16. To provide public comment for either meeting, visit longbeach.gov/cityclerk, and to watch either meeting, visit longbeach.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx.