Council Review: City Doubles Small Business Grants to $500,000 to Help With COVID-19 Crisis

By Robert Haugh

The City Council held its second meeting this week. They met yesterday. They should get paid for overtime.

The City staff presented the outlines of a program to help small businesses in Santa Clara.  There are over 4,000 in the City that have 1-25 employees that would be eligible for help. A few weeks ago, the City allocated $250,000 to the program.

Mayor Lisa Gillmor didn’t think that would be enough. She suggested doubling the amount to $500,000. The City Council unanimously agreed.

Gillmor said “it’s a prudent move now because we’ll be able to help twice as many small businesses although it won’t be close to what the need is. It shows that we value our businesses. We value our small businesses and we’re doing the best that we can to help.”

The City staff and the “Not the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce” will try to raise additional funds from major corporations and others.

The program should be up and going in 1-2 weeks according to City Manager Deanna Santana.

Tourism Improvement District Funds Not Increased

The City Council was split on what to do with the Tourism Improvement District funds. That’s the money the hotels use to market themselves and the convention center. The hotels charge an extra dollar per room and generate about $800,000 annually. There’s currently $1.6 million in the fund now. 

Vice Mayor Karen Hardy, Councilmembers Debi Davis and Raj Chahal tried to increase the staff recommendation to give the hotels an additional 1.5 percent. That would have increased the fund from $800,000 annually to $2.8 million.

Davis made a motion to increase the amount. But it failed 3-3.

Gillmor, Councilmembers Teresa O’Neill and Kathy Watanabe wanted to keep the funding at the existing level. They said the City needs to maintain the flexibility to use extra potential funds to help the community. The extra funds from an increased hotel tax could be used for things like small business grants and meals for school children instead of hiring extra staff now to market hotel rooms that won’t be filled for a really long time and a convention center that’s currently a COVID-19 medical facility.

Then on a 4-2 vote, the City Council approved the staff recommendation. They kept in place the dollar per room charge to give the hotels $800,000 annually for marketing. Davis and Chahal voted against it. 

Related Santa Clara Moving Forward

The City Council unanimously approved a “Landfill Post-Closure Operations and Management Agreement with Related Santa Clara, LLC.”  That’s for the largest mixed-use development in the state or maybe “west of the Mississippi.”

Most of the details yesterday were about the plan to add insurance programs to limit the City’s liability.

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