By Steve Benjamin
Mayor, City of Columbia
As our citizens, small businesses owners, public safety and public health workers, non-profit and social service leaders struggle to overcome the economic and increased workload consequences of the COVID-19 social distancing efforts, Columbia City Council has approved an expansive stimulus package designed to help all survive the pandemic crisis.
During the Friday, March 20 emergency session, we outlined the proposal for our economic sustainability plan “A Resilient Columbia.” The stimulus and aid initiative is designed to fortify small businesses, non-profits that directly aid citizens, and city first responders with up to $6 million as part of an emergency economic package.
A Resilient Columbia, among other things, will:
- Support the increased demand on law enforcement and other public safety functions through $3 million directed for police equipment and officer recruitment/retention efforts, with portions of funding allotted to the fire department, emergency management, 911 operations and information technology
- Provide $500,000 for zero interest forgivable loans for small businesses with less than 100 employees, such as restaurants, retail shops, barber shops and salons, cleaning services, small event venues and others.
- An additional $500,000 will be set aside for crucial nonprofit programs, including those assisting senior citizens, the city’s homeless population, provide rent assistance and more;
- Allow bars and restaurants to delay and avoid penalties on any hospitality tax payments through the end of June.
- Waive all fees for online credit card payments for people paying their bills online
Additionally, City Council approved an Emergency Senior Nutrition Program with Senior Resources and will set aside $250,000 to be matched by a coalition of public and private businesses intended to provide 5-day packs of emergency senior meals through mobile drive-through pick up sites, provide additional meals for seniors on the Meals on Wheels waiting list, and respond to other senior related nutrition emergencies as they arise.
Our focus during this unprecedented pandemic emergency is to keep city generated dollars circulating as widely as possible through our local economy, and to hopefully reach every citizen suffering the effects of our current collective social distancing efforts.