El Cajon takes steps to provide more relief

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El Cajon City Council moved forward with programs to help residents, businesses and homeless individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic on April 14.

The council approved 12 programs to help the community. Staff reported there will be a negative fiscal impact on the city’s general fund this year, into fiscal year 2020/21, and could lead to multi-year impacts. The city’s Resident Response Team, tasked to consider short- and long-term challenges to COVID-19, developed possible programs/activities that would have an impact while still being sensitive to the city’s budget.

The 12 programs to help the community include providing residents assistance with rent and utility bills.

Staff recommended $300,000 in Care Act funds to assist eligible households with utility payments.

The city will continue to not charge late fees through December 2020 and allow residents to defer sewer billing during April and May. All outstanding payments must be made by the end of 2020.

The city allocated up to $50,000 in general funds to partner with local organizations to help seniors gain access to groceries. There are currently up to six food distributions in El Cajon each week.

The Business Response Team identified the top four challenges that local businesses are and may face: lost revenue, business closures, employee safety and employee layoffs. In response, the city is setting up a business resource site, reaching out to businesses, waiving late business license renewal penalties, no longer enforcing banner and temporary use regulations at business sites.

The Homeless Response Team identified the top challenges of the city’s homeless population. Lack of shelter for those who do not wish to follow standards, lack of facilities for hygiene and disease prevention and, due to unemployment rates, already low-income residents could be at-risk for homelessness in the  mid- to long-term future.

Staff recommended $250,000 in Cares Act funds be allocated to providing sheltered space, transportation services to secured shelter spaces throughout the county, and $200,000 allocated to the Rapid Rehousing/Rental Assistance program to ensure vulnerable populations remain in existing housing.

Heartland Fire & Rescue Fire Chief Steve Swaney updated the city’s confirmed COVID-19 cases, 113 in El Cajon as of April 14. He pointed out that all of these cases are not within city limits, but also include numbers of people infected in the unincorporated areas of El Cajon.

The city urged everyone to adhere to the County Health orders now in place.

Swaney said the San Diego County Offices of Emergency Services is reaching out to law enforcement, fire departments, hospitals, senior living facilities and dealing with homeless issues to ensure no one is left behind.

“We are ensuring everybody that we are endeavoring to persevere to keep current on this fast-changing environment,” said Swaney.

Mayor Bill Wells advised the city manager to do what is necessary “to just get it done.”

“We have tendencies in government to have multiple goals,” said Wells. “Sometimes we get stuck on one of those goals and the whole operation gets slowed down… I don’t think we have time for that.”

For more information about programs and resources visit cityofelcajon.us/covid19.