Gloria Earmarks $42 Million For Renters; No-Eviction Extension On Table
Speaker 1: 00:00 The city of San Diego is extending additional rent relief to residents using $42 million from the federal government. But that windfall is just about the only bit of good financial news the city has right now. In recent months, the city has seen its projected shortfall increase from 86 million to more than $150 million. Mayor Todd Gloria has begun the process of budget. Cutting, asking departments to find savings by freezing positions and halting proposed construction. But even with hard internal cuts, San Diego officials say next year's budget could see reductions in service if help isn't forthcoming from the federal government. Joining me is KPBS Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen, and Andrew. Welcome. Hi Maureen. Thank you. Let's start with this new round of rent relief. Is this an extension of a program the city started last summer? Speaker 2: 00:53 Not exactly. So last summer you'll recall the council, the city council approved $15 million in assistance for low income renters that were hurt by the pandemic. And this came from, uh, the pool of money that city got directly, uh, under the cares act. Then city council member, Chris ward had proposed about four times the amount. Um, but the mayor at the time, Kevin Faulconer balked at that figure and he ended up, um, offering and the city council approved that $15 million. So that helped a lot of people. Um, but a lot of more people didn't get the help that they needed. And so this, this new money comes from the bill. As you mentioned that, uh, Congress passed in December the same one that gave folks those $600 checks. Unlike the cares act, the bill passed in December, did not have any direct aid for state or local governments, but it did earmark $25 billion for rental assistance. And San Diego's share of that money came out to about $42 million. So a mayor Gloria is certainly glad for that money. In this case, the city is just passing through. It's a pass through agency for that money from the federal government Speaker 1: 02:03 And who's eligible for this rent relief aid. Speaker 2: 02:07 The criteria set by Congress is that, uh, the household has to be, uh, low income and that's defined as 80% of the area, median income in San Diego County. That's a little over $92,000 for a family of four. Uh, they also have to be at risk of homelessness or housing instability, and have to have a household member that's either unemployed or experiencing financial hardship because of the pandemic. The city is however, do have some leeway in terms of who they want to prioritize. They could maybe set lower income thresholds, try and help folks even making even less money or, uh, you know, make, uh, offer larger, uh, grants than, uh, what were previously offered. So we'll have to probably wait until the city council takes up this item on Tuesday to get some of those more precise details about, um, eligibility. And the mayor is also proposing, Speaker 1: 03:00 Extending the eviction ban for renters and businesses. Can you tell us about that? Speaker 2: 03:05 Yeah, it's kind of hard to keep track of all the different layers of eviction moratoriums that, that are, um, that have been passed since the pandemic started. So the city had one that it was approved pre early on that covered residential and commercial tenants, but that one expired in August. Um, shortly after that expiration, uh, governor Newsome signed a bill that then superseded the local eviction moratorium, but it only covered residential tenants, not businesses. Um, but then on top of both the state and the local eviction bands, uh, there was the CDCs eviction pan, um, that president Biden recently, uh, extended. So, uh, to some extent this local eviction ban is just kind of a backstop against, uh, you know, any changes to the state or federal measures, uh, banning evictions. Um, but it does actually go further in protecting businesses. So if you're a business that can't pay, uh, the rent, because, you know, you've been forced to shut down, um, those will, uh, will not be allowed to be evicted by their landlord. Speaker 1: 04:09 And I guess the San Diego city council will be voting on that eviction moratorium extension, this coming Tuesday. That's right. Maureen Andrew, as the pandemic lingers on the city has had to revise its budget, shortfall projections. Why did the estimated shortfall nearly doubled Speaker 2: 04:27 Back in November? The city was estimating about $84 million in deficit for the coming fiscal year. That's the year that the budget year that starts on, uh, July 1st. Um, but just a few weeks after that, uh, the city department of finance revised it up to $124 million. That was because of an increase in pension payments. The city has to keep on funding. All of these pensions that were promised to city employees who have retired, uh, on top of that 124 million deficit, the city's independent budget analyst noted that, uh, this, the previous projections were too optimistic about the return of tourism. So the city could, would likely that the IBA estimated the city would actually come up another $30 million short in hotel tax revenue. After that point, um, mayor Todd Gloria mentioned in his state of the city address, that he was projecting a deficit in excess of $150 million. Um, but this number is still based on the data that we have from November and things are changing so fast with this pandemic and the economy. We probably won't get an updated forecast on the deficit until the proposed budget comes out from the mayor's office in mid April. Speaker 1: 05:46 Now, right now, president Biden has proposed a sweeping $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, which includes help to struggling States and cities, our city leaders, San Diego, city leaders, counting on that plan. Speaker 2: 06:01 Well, they're certainly hoping for it. Um, but I think they're preparing for the worst because of the cares act passed in the spring of last year, the city was able to run a pretty regular a budget. They didn't use any of their general fund reserves. They didn't implement any major layoffs. Uh, but, and, and, you know, if, if Congress were to rubber stamp president Biden's proposal, the city could potentially get away with, um, doing the same thing that it did in the current fiscal year and, and running a regular, uh, pretty regular budget. Um, that almost definitely won't happen that rubber stamp. So the fate, it's interesting, really the fate of the city budget, things like police and fire libraries and rec centers tree-trimming and brush management road repair, all the things that the city is responsible for really depends on what Congress and the Biden administration can agree on. Speaker 1: 06:55 I've been speaking with KPBS, Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen, and Andrew. Thank you very much. My pleasure, Maureen.