Turlock discusses US bailout COVID relief spending
With $ 15.7 million in federal COVID-19 relief money to spend over the next five years, Turlock City Council on Tuesday identified supporting business and mental health needs as priorities.
For presentation at a future council meeting, city staff plan to prepare a list of the top five spending ideas based on Tuesday’s discussion, Acting City Manager Dan Madden said.
The council previously allocated $ 2.3 million of Turlock’s American Rescue Plan Act funding to add city workers, pay for COVID-19 case management services, and improve broadband technology for fire stations. firefighters, according to a staff report. Turlock is due to allocate the remaining $ 13.7 million to services by the end of 2024 and spend the funds by December 31, 2026.
While every board member spoke in favor of helping local business owners who struggled during the pandemic, they disagreed over the effectiveness of relief grants. Mayor Amy Bublak and council members Pam Franco and Rebecka Monez have advocated for a city-funded business consultant to train owners to operate and improve online marketing.
“We can write checks all day with these funds and pay them to businesses,” Monez said at the meeting. “But if we don’t change the fundamentals and foundations of our brick and mortar, when those controls run out… it’s a recipe for failure.”
Meanwhile, board members Nicole Larson and Andrew Nosrati have asked for more grants to allow business owners to pay for immediate needs amid the unique challenges of COVID-19. Of the $ 2.5 million in federal CARES coronavirus relief last year, Turlock allocated about $ 800,000 in grants to local businesses. Larson and Nosrati also discussed on Tuesday the merits of spending ARPA funds on economic development services such as entrepreneurs and first-generation business owners.
The council did not vote on the issue because officials gave direction only on how they wanted to spend the relief funds. But in the future, Bublak said, the city is expected to issue a request for proposals on a business advisory service.
Turlock Council discusses mental health
Officials also identified improving access to mental health services as a priority. Franco, Larson, and Nosrati made separate recommendations on working with Legacy Health Endowment after citing statistics on depression.
The city may be able to help cover the cost of residents’ mental health care, Larson said. Working with the foundation or Stanislaus State University on training mental health professionals can also help, Nosrati said.
Bublak separately proposed to spend ARPA funds on a study on the welfare of all city employees. A confidential service could collect data and include confidential coaching for individuals and teams, she said. Coaching could reduce employee stress, especially after years of budget cuts and in the midst of the pandemic, she added.
“This is our chance to try and set the record (and) to let people know that we appreciate them,” Bublak said. “Even for recruiting, people will want to come somewhere where they know we are trying to help them develop. “
The rest of the board accepted Bublak’s call for an employee welfare call for proposals. Nosrati, however, said he would rather pay for the study with money from the general fund rather than the COVID-19 relief funds. ARPA money should go directly to struggling businesses and families, he added.
Other officials have said they want to spend funds on affordable housing, broadband infrastructure, online city services, street lighting, storm sewers and job training.
Turlock can spend the funds to strengthen public health, reduce the negative economic impacts caused by COVID-19 and replace lost public sector revenue, CFO Isaac Moreno said. ARPA money can also be used to provide a bonus for essential workers and invest in water, sewage and broadband infrastructure.
This story was originally published October 28, 2021 4:00 a.m.