Santa Monica City Council will vote Tuesday whether to allocate $6.4 million in funding to programs that would otherwise be on the chopping block as the city seeks to bridge a $224 million budget deficit. With its tax revenues cratering because of the coronavirus shutdown and recession, the city is in the process of laying off or buying out nearly 400 employees and cutting $86.2 million in ongoing spending. City Council voted earlier this month to begin the layoff process and distribute $2 million in unallocated funding to save programs that city staff had proposed scaling back or eliminating. The budget plan city leadership released earlier this month was met with criticism from city staff and residents who felt the city could have taken measures such as pay cuts or furloughs to preserve jobs and programs. Interim City Manager Lane Dilg has maintained that the city must restructure its operations because the pandemic’s lasting impacts on sales and hotel tax revenues will result in a $224 million deficit over the next two fiscal years. Dilg said the funding plan the council will vote on Tuesday at a virtual meeting leverages an additional $4.4 million in federal resources and other funds to restore a total of $5.9 million in funding to housing, youth, recreational, mobility and sustainability programs. “City staff have worked creatively and collaboratively to develop a restoration plan that serves to preserve highly valued city services in the midst of the historic crisis caused by COVID-19,” Dilg said in a statement. “Based on council direction and extensive community input, this plan … (keeps) our public spaces vibrant and our most vulnerable residents safe in their homes as we work together to build our recovery.” Housing and food assistance The city would expand its Preserving Our Diversity (POD) rent subsidy program for low-income seniors to anywhere from 250 to 450 households. Two as-needed staff would support the program. An additional 307 eligible households — not just elderly residents — would receive rental assistance for three months through a $1.6 million fund made available in the CARES Act and $250,000 in city funding. More than $51,000 in funding would be restored the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, which provides 900 Santa Monicans with free legal aid, often representing them in housing matters. The Westside Food Bank and Meals on Wheels West would receive a total of $20,000. Under the proposed budget, the city would cut 12% in funding to 20 human services organizations that provide services to people experiencing homelessness, vulnerable youth, people with disabilities and seniors.
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