As November’s municipal elections approach, Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly and his opponents shared their views on Elk Grove’s economic recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elk Grove school administrator Bobbie Singh-Allen and first-time political candidate and Elk Grove resident of 15 years Brian Pastor are also running for mayor.
Ly told the Citizen that in addressing the issue of economic recovery from this pandemic, the city has been looking for ways to reduce its own operating costs, such as maintaining vacancies for municipal positions.
“We will continue to do this until the economy improves,” he said.
The mayor shares his recovery plan
Ly said that from a “business perspective” he has a five-part economic recovery plan for the city.
The first part of this plan continues to ensure that vital information will be made available to the public. To meet this need, the city has partnered with the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce to launch the Coronavirus Rapid Response website, RapidResponse.MetroChamber.org, and the Rapid Response Business Helpline. This number is (833) 391-1919.
Ly identified the second part of his plan as “to quickly respond to the needs of restaurants in Elk Grove.”
“That’s one of the things that contributes to tax revenue is restaurants,” he said. “A quick response to this is to take care of temporary outdoor dining areas. This allows many restaurants to maintain a stable source of income (and) keep employees on the payroll.
The mayor identified the third part of his economic recovery plan as providing financial assistance to small businesses through two programs.
“The first program is the emergency investment assistance program,” Ly said. “(This program) was established with a partnership through Lift Investing, and it is to provide low, flexible loans to businesses in Elk Grove. This program allows community banks to receive deposits from public bodies for the sole purpose of redistributing them to local businesses.
Another part of Ly’s stimulus package is the Small Business Recovery Grant Program, in which the city has allocated $750,000 in federally funded grants to help small businesses.
“These two particular programs are the ones that will provide direct support to local businesses, which I’m really proud of,” he said.
Ly noted that the fourth part of his recovery plan is the launch of programs such as “Why buy local? campaign, which specifically highlights businesses in Elk Grove.
The fifth part of Ly’s economic recovery plan imposes a moratorium on tenant evictions.
“I thought as a city council we needed to be mindful,” he said. “I was very lucky that the city council – although initially they were against it – moved on and supported (this moratorium).”
Ly summarized his economic recovery plan.
“If our people suffer, we as a city will suffer,” he said. “There is no doubt in my mind. Most importantly in these particular times, we need to make sure we are doing everything we can to support businesses and support residents. »
Singh-Allen’s Economic Stimulus Plan
Singh-Allen told the Citizen she has a three-part economic recovery plan.
“I definitely have an economic recovery plan, which I call ‘Reopen Elk Grove,'” she said. “The goal is really to use a collaborative approach to develop a city-wide economic recovery plan.”
In outlining the first part of this plan, Singh-Allen said “economic recovery starts today.”
“It needs to start today, and that includes dedicated city staff with resources to do a needs assessment to really know how many jobs have been lost, how many landlords and tenants are at risk, how many landlords and tenants are at risk,” she said.
“Where were we hurt? We need to be able to identify the impact and have a plan to deal with it and mitigate it.
Singh-Allen added that she thinks it’s important to “catalogue COVID-19 and the impacts of the recession.”
“Let’s say there’s a cure (COVID-19) tomorrow or the numbers are where they need to be, we need to get to work so we can get our community back on its feet,” she said.
The second part of Singh-Allen’s three-part approach is to launch an economic recovery task force, made up of business and nonprofit leaders, banking institutions, labor leaders, the health sector, top CEOs of large corporations, the city manager and some city employees.
She noted that the mayor and city council would also be part of the task force, but in a quorum setting to avoid Brown Law violations.
“The goal is to meet immediate and long-term needs within the mission of the task force,” she said.
Singh-Allen said the third part of his economic recovery plan is to assess “where the city and the mayor’s office have failed.”
“What were the missed opportunities? ” she asked. “What were the communication gaps? What I have explained to you in this three-pronged approach is a snapshot of today, tomorrow, as well as a (a) reflection of the past.
Singh-Allen told the Citizen that over the past few weeks she has spoken to more than 20 Elk Grove business owners, and none of them have been notified of the availability of funding from the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act), and personal protective equipment through the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) or the city.
“They just weren’t aware,” she said. “So it’s not enough just to have something available on a website. You really shouldn’t overlook anything.
“Businesses are hurting and many of them are minority-owned businesses. They don’t have the luxury of going to websites. They need to know, and the sad thing is that other cities have done this proactive work by helping directly.
Singh-Allen added that she is actively working to fill the gaps to bring these CalOES resources to more businesses in Elk Grove.
“I have just been approved through my partnership with CalOES and the Tourism and Hospitality side to secure over 25,000 face shields, over 38,000 face masks (disposable) and over 1,700 16 oz hand sanitizers” , she said.
Singh-Allen said she plans to distribute the items to restaurants and hotels in Elk Grove.
The pastor encourages the use of the city’s general fund
The pastor told the Citizen he would like the city to use some of its general fund to help small businesses. The majority of the city’s general fund is made up of sales and property taxes.
“I would also redirect some of the general funds, such as grants for community services, code enforcement and government towards small business recovery,” he said. “These funds would represent 5% of the general fund, or approximately $4 million.
“We could use these funds to cover up to 30% of small business rental costs (for) up to six months. We can set up low interest relief loans with local banks, to cover other overheads incurred by other small businesses. »
The pastor also wants the city to provide free COVID-19 testing and free or low-cost shipping for locally purchased products.
To recover funds from the city, Pastor recommends a one-time commercial real estate fee that would be assessed after the local economy recovers.
While Pastor wants the city to offer more help to small businesses, he also encourages those businesses to find their own ways to acquire emergency resources.
“This will not be our (last) pandemic,” he said. “We don’t know when the next one will be, but once it passes, we can prepare for another natural disaster or financial crisis. Either way, these companies will be well prepared.
Pastor mentioned his desire for the city to be less reliable with the federal government during pandemics.
“We have to think about the city first and then not rely on what the federal government will provide us with,” he said. “Instead of waiting for federal aid, we have something in place for our city where we can be sustainable during these times.”
Pastor added that his proposals are intended to “prevent a 2008 recession caused by (a) natural disaster.”
“I want to protect our families, our small businesses, to make sure families are safe,” he said. “They could also apply for any type of financial assistance in the event of eviction. We could do it locally with the general fund. It’s all intertwined again with the General Fund.
“I think 37% of the general fund comes from sales tax and then I think 25% to 27% comes from property tax. So if we can take advantage of (some of that money), we could boost small business, we could boost eviction protection and people who are falling back on their mortgage.
“So if we protect our families in our community and our businesses at the same time with the General Fund, before we seek federal assistance, we can be better prepared without waiting for those eviction notices, those foreclosures. At least we have protection first.
The EG mayoral candidates’ debate will take place on September 29
The Elk Grove Citizen and Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee will host a debate for Elk Grove mayoral candidates on Tuesday, September 29. Holder Steve Ly and challengers Bobbie Singh-Allen and Brian Pastor will be featured.
This debate will be held online at 6 p.m. and the public will be able to watch it by registering on the Chamber’s website, www.ElkGroveCA.com. Registration is free.