By Mike Allen
May 29, 2020 (Santee) -- Santee’s City Council voted unanimously May 27 to extend a moratorium on evictions of both residential and commercial tenants impacted by the coronavirus to the end of June.
The Council enacted an urgency ordinance installing a moratorium on evictions April 8 that was set to expire May 31. The city took the action despite the fact that the state of California already has executive orders in place barring evictions of tenants who can show they have been negatively impacted by the lockdown of all non-essential businesses starting March 19.
Councilwoman Laura Koval said given the fact that so many residents are unemployed, and have yet to receive their first check from the state, it’s necessary that the city provide them with some safety net.
“The EDD (state Employment Development Department) is so backlogged now…. and many of them haven’t received their first check yet. A lot of people don’t have any money in their pockets through no fault of their own,” Koval said.
Koval, a director at the Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve, later gave an optimistic report from her latest meeting of a Blue Ribbon Committee aiming to help reopen local businesses in the city. She said every member of the committee, numbering about 20, had reopening plans.
A recent report done by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and delivered to the East County Economic Development Center, showed unemployment in the San Diego region at 30 percent as of May 9, compared to 4.9 percent as of March 21.
The same report showed Santee slightly faring better than two other East County cities, with its unemployment rate at 28.2 percent in May, compared to El Cajon, with 32.1 percent unemployment, and La Mesa at 29.5 percent unemployment.
In terms of people, Santee’s total number of unemployed as of May 9 stood at 8,862, the report stated.
At the same meeting, the Santee council approved spending nearly $250,000 in funds provided by the federal government to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Santee was granted about $162,000 in April through the $2 trillion Coronavirus Relief and Economic Security Act, and was combining that with an earlier allocation of $85,000 through community block grants.
The biggest chunk of that money, $130,000, was allocated to a micro enterprise grant program that can assist businesses of less than five employees. The maximum grant would be $10,000 so the approximate number of local businesses that might be helped by the program is 13.
The Council provided no comment on the micro enterprise program, and instead spent the bulk of time discussing $60,000 in funding seven local nonprofit groups that were seeking assistance. In order of the amounts funded the groups are the Santee Food Bank, $15,000; Crisis House, $15,000; Santee Santas, $10,000; Elder Help of San Diego, $8,000; Cameron Family YMCA, $5,000; Boys and Girls Clubs of East County, $5,000; and Meals on Wheels, $2,000.
The Council directed its staff to return with an amended annual action plan for the federal dollars that it plans to adopt at its June 10 meeting.
In other actions, the Council discussed plans to spend between $200,000 to $300,000 on an upgrade of its council chambers required as part of previous intentions to live stream Council meetings.
Santee is already paying a consultant on this project, Idibri Consulting, $17,500 to provide it with the preliminary plans on the renovation. According to a staff report, the cost for a base remodel of the chambers and additional audio-visual equipment will run between $180,000 to $200,000.
Yet additions to the base price could increase the total cost by more than $85,000. Among the additions is a digital signage “name” for councilmembers. A staffer said the cost wasn’t for the sign itself but more for the software needed to integrate with the video distribution system.
One of the biggest changes to the renovated chambers is extending a dais to allow staffers to sit at the same level of elected officials. Most staffers now sit in the front rows at council meetings, which inhibits their being seen by people attending the meetings.
Mayor John Minto and other members said they liked the general direction of the chamber’s renovation plans, but had problems with the $32,000 cost for the digital sign. Bids on the project were issued by the city earlier this month, and should be reviewed by the Council in the near future.
Mike Allen writes about government agencies and other topics for East County Magazine, mainly covering the Santee City Council. Among the newspapers he’s written for are the San Diego Business Journal, San Diego Daily Transcript, the Vista Press, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He has won numerous journalism awards including a fellowship to the Stonier School of Banking by the American Bankers Association while employed as a financial reporter.
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