Claremont will spend some of its $8.7 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to pay for essential worker pay, traffic calming measures and homeless services.
City leaders on Tuesday, May 10, approved a slew of projects and programs that directly target the community. The city received about half of its $8.7 million in American Rescue Plan funding in July 2021. The remaining half is expected to be distributed this July.
The city had delayed spending any of the funds until it had received direction from the U.S. Treasury, which came in January, providing some flexibility in how the money can be used.
Signed into law by President Joe Biden in March 2021, the American Rescue Plan authorized $1.9 trillion in federal relief to speed up the nation’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, and provided $130 billion for local governments to support public health expenditures, address economic harms to workers, households and small businesses, and replace lost revenue from the economic downturn.
After soliciting feedback from 385 residents and 27 local businesses, Claremont identified the community’s highest priorities — public infrastructure, rent and housing assistance and public safety services.
Tuesday, some City Council members were skeptical about certain parts of the ARP package.
To reward city employees who worked during the pandemic, the city proposed spending $413,000 on one-time stipends up to $4,000 for full-time public safety employees and up to $3,000 for other full-time employees, including some who have retired. Payments up to $1,000 for part-time employees would also be given.
Councilmember Corey Calaycay said he was “not comfortable” with boosting public employee pay and felt the ARP funds “were intended to backfill the suffering of the community.” He case the lone vote against the proposal.
The council hit another snag with the commuter bicycle rebate program, which is meant to provide $100,000 to help Claremont Village employees purchase electric bicycles they could ride to work rather than drive a car.
Mayor Jed Leano proposed the program after concerns about parking in the Village were raised in a previous meeting.
Councilmember Jennifer Stark said while the program was well-intentioned, it wouldn’t do much to solve parking issues as a whole.
“I feel there are more effective ways to deal with the parking issues in the Village than offering rebates on bicycles for employees who bike to work,” Stark said. “My feeling is that there could be a lack of equity in this bike program.”
Leano said he was willing to make concessions on the parameters of the program but not eliminate the idea all together.
“I don’t think it solves anything unilaterally, it doesn’t solve parking, it doesn’t solve Co2 emissions or congestion,” Leano said. “But it helps all of them.”
In the end, the council approved the program unanimously, but eligibility guidelines and income parameters have yet to be hammered out. Details will return to the council at a later date.
Meanwhile, the council approved $500,000 for the implementation of traffic-calming measures and to update the city’s traffic sign inventory. Of these funds, $250,000 will be used to complete traffic-calming improvements recommended by ongoing city studies, according to a staff report.
The funding will also provide for the replacement of older, faded street signage throughout town. Previously, some residents called on city leaders to put a focus on street safety, traffic calming measures and more police presence at busy intersections.
Other programs funded by ARP include:
- $146,650 for the city’s homeless services programs, which had been cut in the 2020-21 budget. Some of that money will go to community-based organizations, which have previously included Claremont Meals on Wheels and Claremont Heritage.
- $50,000 to develop up to five standard designs for accessory dwelling units that property owners could choose from to add to their properties. The city has budgeted $200,000 for the next two years to provide grants of $20,000 to property owners who build an ADU.
- $175,000 for the next two years to back the city’s Psychiatric Assessment Care Team, which supports mental health responders in nonviolent cases.
- $500,000 and $495,000, respectively, for Police Department dispatch radio console upgrades and to replace city-owned emergency radios.
- $400,000 for a grant program that will assist local businesses with rent, utilities, supplies, payroll and employee hiring and retention.
- $200,000 for a business-tax relief program. About 1,500 licensed businesses with a location in Claremont are eligible for the program.
In total, the council has obligated $4.5 million in federal relief funds, leaving more than $4 million to be spent. The council is expected to review staff recommendations for the remaining federal dollars at a later date.