San Francisco Approves Plan for Budget Surplus: $4.4M for Arts Grants, $2M for ‘Undocumented Families’

In this photo taken July 25, 2019, sleeping people, discarded clothes and used needles sit across the street from a staffed "Pit Stop" public toilet in the Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco. Merchants say the bathrooms have given homeless and other people a private place to go so they don't …
AP Photo/Janie Har

The city of San Francisco has a long laundry list of what it wants to do with its $125 million budget surplus, including millions for “cultural equity” in the arts and for families who are in the United States illegally.

Even as the city faces epidemics of homelessness and drug overdoses, Mayor London Breed and the city budget board’s chairman prioritized other things, including $2 million for the Family Relief Fund for “vulnerable and undocumented families who were not eligible for other forms of state and federal financial support.”

The city finalized a plan this week that designates $1.6 million for “overdose prevention” and none for homelessness but did put aside $10 million for expansion of low-income housing.

City officials decided $24 million should go to the arts, including $4.4 million to the Arts Commission’s cultural equity endowment, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Supervisor Matt Haney, the budget chairman, said in the Chronicle report:

These are urgent priorities that can’t wait and this supplemental package will help our city recover and help keep small businesses open, support kids and keep tenants in their home. The funds are going directly and overwhelmingly to the people who are most impacted during this crisis.

Breed said in a press release announcing the decision:

One year ago today we went into a Shelter in Place that, while saving lives, has impacted our city like nothing I’ve ever seen. We’ve had small businesses close, our students have been out of the classrooms for over a year, and people are worried about how they are going to pay rent.

People continue to struggle with housing security and addiction, and our arts and culture sector, which is part of what makes San Francisco so unique, is suffering. While we are working towards our long-term recovery, we know we need this immediate support that will help get our City back on its feet.

“Our goal now is to get this funding approved and out the door and into the hands of those who need it as fast possible,” Breed said.

Other spending approved includes $53 million for small businesses, the Chronicle reported:

The intent is to help 1,000 small low-income businesses, with a focus on those owned by women and people of color that were most hurt by shelter-in-place and haven’t accessed state or federal relief. Grants will vary from $5,000 to $25,000, based on how many full-time employees the business has. Loans will supplement an existing state lending program, but with a lower interest rate.

Also included is $20 million for “rent relief” and affordable housing, and $17 million for student summer programs so that students can attend for free.

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