City Plots Course to Help Residents, Businesses Recover

When the Glendale City Council starts to truly grind out its 2020-21 budget next month, it will draw out what could be a wide-reaching recovery program for residents and businesses whose livelihoods have been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The body decided at its final budget study session on Tuesday morning to use $6.25 million as a starting point for renter and homeowner assistance and $3.65 million for commercial recovery when it meets on June 2 for formal budget talks. From there, the council will determine how much will be allocated where, and how the funds will be administered.
“That’ll be a longer discussion,” Councilman Ara Najarian said at the study session. “’Do we combine it all [into one program]? Do we split it all into categories?’ As long as we’ve got the chunk of money reserved for budget purposes this coming month, we can work on the details later.”
Philip Lanzafame, director of community development, outlined the proposed programs as part of the discussion of the upcoming fiscal year’s Measure S projects, so named for the voter-approved tax to fund essential services and quality of life improvements for residents. It is projected to generate around $20 million for the year.
The assistance programs outlined Tuesday actually were adaptations of proposals being developed before the pandemic put millions of Californians out of work and businesses scrambling for federal stimulus funding.
“Now, as we look at the COVID situation and people needing assistance, some of those programs fit nicely,” Lanzafame said. “We have them developed in concept pretty well. We need some continuing detail that we would have to put with it. What we’re looking for here is for two or three of these programs that you might be interested in pursuing. None of them have any staff attached to them, so we couldn’t do them all, but we may be able to pull some of these into existing program units and have that team administer both programs.”
Perhaps the most relevant of these programs was the Emergency Non-Recurring Rental Assistance Program, or ENRAP, that would bridge a to-be-determined amount of money to tenants who are experiencing sudden income disruption. A separate idea applies this concept specifically to student renters, and yet another one targets rental units that include several generations of a family under one roof who have limited income.
Also presented was additional programming that similarly targets homeowners with mortgages or rental property owners who need assistance with low- and high-level maintenance but can’t afford it because of income disruption.
Najarian wondered aloud whether the city should simply consider cutting checks to virtually the entire city, as with the stimulus checks doled out through one of the federal government’s relief packages.
“Just split up the money to every household throughout the city, give everyone an equal amount to be used for mortgage or rent. If we’re going to be fair about it, why don’t we just whack it up? Everyone’s paying into this fund. Just whack it up,” Najarian said. “I’m just putting it out there. I think my general outlook on this is that we have to be equitable to all levels of the community, not just renters, not just low-income renters, but owners of multifamily, owners of single family, renters of single family. I’m just trying to find some equity in our discussion.”
Najarian added he would strive to prevent local residents who are also landlords from “double-dipping,” as their tenants would ostensibly be redirecting their checks to rent payments.
Councilman Ardy Kassakhian said he envisioned having renters apply for relief and the city sending checks directly to those landlords and would prefer to target the most at-risk residents first, with Najarian countering that the administration required to vet need might be burdensome. Councilman Dan Brotman agreed with Kassakhian.
“I think we certainly want to be helping the people that have the greatest need and yes, the administration is difficult. It’s hard, but I think it’s necessary, so I would not be in favor at all of handing out money to people who are living in nice homes, like myself, who are employed and have nice resources,” Brotman said. “I could see us expanding some of these rental assistance programs. We could increase that [amount] and expand some of the eligibility guidelines, but I think if we do anything, it’s got to be directed to the low-income people who need it.”
Proposed economic recovery initiatives included a variety of programs offering direct fiscal relief and also a potential plan to establish large outdoor spaces to permit restaurants and other eateries to have “dine-in” customers in a manner that observes social distancing requirements.
“We know that the restaurant business model doesn’t work if you’re taking away half the tables, so we’re going to have to help them by providing public space to spread out,” Brotman said. “I think customers also would be a lot more comfortable eating outside and doing shopping outside. We know it’s not risk-free, but we do know the risk of infection outdoors is a lot lower than indoors.”
Kassakhian and Councilwoman Paula Devine both urged the city to work with all businesses in an area being considered for this type of space, should the city ultimately move forward with it.
“We have to have outreach and we have to have total agreement from those who will be impacted,” Devine said.
In setting a time to fully hammer out these programs, Kassakhian stressed the urgency of the current crisis as a factor in sorting out what money goes where.
“I liked your entire economic recovery package as it was, and I would fund it all,” he told Lanzafame. “Ultimately, this goes hand in hand with rental assistance and landlord assistance and the other programs. To me, these are the top priorities, at least for this year. Next year, whatever happens, we have an opportunity to come back and revisit [other initiatives], but for me, these are paramount.”

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