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San Marcos City Council Seeks Input For COVID-19 Relief Projects

A sign on a business in Austin during the coronavirus pandemic urges people to wash their hands frequently.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
A sign on a business in Austin during the coronavirus pandemic urges people to wash their hands frequently.

Dozens of local businesses in San Marcos could receive up to $5,000 of federal funding in the latest round of efforts to relieve communities that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

San Marcos Chamber of Commerce is asking the City Council to create a small-business recovery program using federal funds it received for COVID-19 relief. On Tuesday, the council voted to set aside $200,000 for the program, which is pending public comment and final approval. 

The City of San Marcos receives grants annually from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the city is getting an extra $425,261 this year. Local organizations, like the chamber, submitted ideas on how the money should be used.

“This little bit of grant funding will help ensure that those businesses can redesign, reopen and stay safe during this time and also look toward the future,” said Jason Mock, the chamber's president.

If approved, the small-business recovery program would help businesses meet COVID-19-related health and safety standards as they reopen. For example, businesses may need to redesign their space to ensure social distancing or buy contactless payment devices and personal protective equipment.

“I hope that we don't go to a situation where we're back to what we had to do a few months ago,” Mock said. “But if we are in that situation, we want to make sure that our businesses have the proper tools to weather that storm again.” 

Council Member Maxfield Baker suggested during a council meeting Tuesday that businesses that receive the award should be mandated to spend at least 20% of it on PPE. 

"I see this as a really important need, and it's been a really big pain point for a lot of the members of our community that are going back to work and don’t feel adequately equipped," Baker said.

Some of the other council members and the city manager disagreed, saying businesses may have varying PPE needs and enforcement would be difficult. 

“Even if we did [require] the PPE, how are we going to verify that they’re going to utilize it?” City Manager Bert Lumbreras said.

The council also voted Tuesday to set aside funds for other projects, including advocacy services for abused and neglected children and mobile COVID-19 testing facilities. 

These projects and the small business recovery program will be open for public comment Sunday until June 13. City Council will take a final vote on June 16. Residents can send their comments electronically to CDBG@sanmarcostx.gov or by mail to the City of San Marcos.

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