Clash over $80,000 marketing outreach budget
By Daniel Borsuk
In response to the state moving Contra Costa County back into the most restrictive COVID-19 Purple Tier, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday acted to deliver financial assistance in the struggling tenant, landlord and small business sectors.
Earlier Supervisors had learned that Contra Costa’s new daily COVID-19 case rate had risen to 11.4 per 100,000 with a 3.7 percent positivity rate. As of Tuesday, 41 counties, including Contra Costa, were in the Purple tier.
Supervisors approved an amendment to the County’s Fiscal Year 2019-2020 Community Development Block Grant Action Plan to spend an additional $4.29 million in CDBG-Coronavirus or CV3 funds under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 to provide emergency rental assistance and tenant/landlord counseling and related legal services.
Supervisors allotted $3.2 million from a Federal CARES Grant for an emergency rental assistance program to Hayward-based ECHO Housing that would provide tenant-landlord counseling and related legal services to persons meeting eligible income requirements for the program.
Concord-based Shelter, Inc. will work with ECHO in providing rental assistance services in Antioch, Pittsburg, Concord, and Walnut Creek.
At one point, Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg and Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood clashed over the program’s $80,000 marketing/outreach budget that Glover supported, but Burgis preferred to cut by 50 percent. “I like to do outreach,” said Burgis, “but there is so much need and urgency out there right now.”
Despite the disagreement over the outreach money, supervisors kept intact the $80,000 for outreach.
One of the conditions to the federal program is that the county needs to spend the CARES funds by Jan. 31, 2021.
“Obviously, families are struggling to make ends meet, and some of my students have found themselves having to take some economic responsibility to make families’ ends meet,” said Luis Chacon, a West Contra Costa Unified School District teacher.
In other action, supervisors voted 5-0 to pass an urgency ordinance to continue the temporary prohibition on evictions of certain small business commercial tenants financially impacted by COVID-19. The protection continues through Jan. 31.
“The county must act quickly to assist residents, both tenants and landlords, who are or will be in the crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Board Chair Candace Andersen of Danville. “Providing direct rental payments to landlords on behalf of tenants is critical, and staff will work with community organizations to reach out to those in need, particularly low-income households and neighborhoods severely impacted by economic and housing instability at this difficult time.”
Contra Costa County’s Urgency Ordinance 2020-29 provides protections pursuant to Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order N-80-20, which extends, through March 31, 2021, the authority of local jurisdictions to suspend the evictions of commercial tenants for the non-payment of rent if the non-payment was a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Board of Supervisors recognizes that the already struggling business environment has become even more challenging with the recent rise of COVID-19 cases,” said Board Chair Andersen. “As we follow public health orders and guidance intended to protect lives, we have to support businesses however we can.”
Supervisors voted 5-0 to impose a 45-day moratorium ordinance on industrial hemp cultivation so that the county Agriculture Commission can establish cultivation and location regulations on the crop harvested in East county.
East County resident John Cisneros, who lives nearby a hemp operation with armed guards, urged supervisors to adopt an ordinance. “How would you like to live near a hep farm with a security force, that might turn into a cannabis operation? Not a safe thing,” he said. “I am not against hemp, but this is not a suitable place.”
Pittsburg Motel 6 Homeless Program Action
In a consent action, supervisors approved a lease with Azad Rahman, Riffat Rahman an Zahin Rahman, who had managed the Motel 6 at 2101 Loveridge Road, Pittsburg that the county has agreed to buy through the state’s Homekey Program to provide housing for the homeless and social services.
The county agreed to purchase the motel for $17.4 million even though there is a question whether the county properly appraised the property that may have been over appraised by $5 million. (See related article) The county approved a lease with the Rahmans at $600 a month.