Santa Monica City Hall (File photo)

The city of Santa Monica has created a task force dedicated to getting the local economy moving again after the county and state ease stay-at-home orders.

City leadership announced at Tuesday’s City Council meeting the Santa Monica Economic Recovery Task Force, a collaboration between city staff, businesses and community organizations to develop and implement economic recovery measures. Officials ordered nonessential businesses to close last month to slow the spread of coronavirus, decimating Santa Monica’s economy and leaving many residents jobless.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday a phased reopening plan in which lower-risk businesses such as retail and manufacturing could reopen with physical distancing guidelines in a few weeks, and higher-risk businesses such as gyms, movie theaters and salons could open in several months. Newsom said large gatherings such as concerts would not be allowed until the state’s population has access to a vaccine or develops herd immunity.

Santa Monica’s Economic Recovery Task Force intends to help businesses reopen quickly by making it simpler and less expensive to obtain city permits and changing zoning code to allow for more flexible business configurations. It plans to provide marketing support for businesses through existing organizations, such as Buy Local, Business Improvement Districts, Santa Monica Travel & Tourism and the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce.

“We have started this process early to strengthen our local economy and help Santa Monica businesses and workers get back on their feet,” Interim City Manager Lane Dilg said in a statement. “Our first focus is the reopening of businesses and getting people back to work when it’s safe to do so. We look forward to rebuilding the foundation for sustainable economic growth.” 

The task force will also help people who have lost work due to COVID-19 connect to job opportunities and provide technical assistance for local businesses seeking federal and state loans and grants.

Local small businesses reported being unable to access the first round of paycheck protection and disaster grants provided by the CARES Act as larger businesses scooped up aid. Congress approved a second round of small business aid last week, with an additional $310 for paycheck protection grants and $60 billion for economic disaster loans.

Many people who have lost work are still waiting to receive jobless benefits because they have been unable to reach the state’s unemployment office by phone or have experienced technical glitches on the office’s online portal.

Renters and landlords have questioned whether one-time stimulus checks and unemployment benefits will provide enough money to cover rent, and small businesses have complained that the CARES Act offers little money that could be allocated to rent. The city’s temporary moratorium on evictions holds businesses and renters liable for any unpaid rent six months after the crisis is over.

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  1. Since this article was written, the City extended the rent moratorium to include June rent and extended the time renters have to pay back the rent payments they missed from 6 months to a year.

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