ESCONDIDO – The Escondido City Council accepted $38.8 million in coronavirus recovery funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 during its Sept. 29 meeting. The council also heard an update on its business recovery strategy.
According to the city staff report, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) provided Escondido with one-time funding of $38,808,509 to cover expenses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, make up for lost revenue and ease the overall economic impact of the pandemic.
The council approved using $9.3 million be used to make investments in parks and other public outdoor recreation spaces, “such as the Kit Carson Amphitheater, to promote healthier living environments and socialization to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” according to the staff report.
This includes putting $5.4 million toward Grape Day Park for park improvements and for the development of an aquatics center.
Funds will also be allocated toward sidewalk repairs, increasing tree canopy and connecting the Escondido Creek Trail to certain access points in the community.
The council also allocated $150,000 toward improving access to clean drinking water, improving wastewater and stormwater infrastructure systems and providing access to high-quality broadband service.
More than $5.4 million will go toward supporting the public health response, including personal protective equipment, additional cleaning of municipal parks and facilities, COVID testing and vaccination programs, public communication efforts, investments in public facilities to meet pandemic operational needs and staff-related payroll and leave costs.
More than $7.7 million will go toward addressing the negative economic impact, such as creating a community nonprofit grant program similar to the City of San Marcos.
An even $6 million will be used to replace lost revenue.
The remaining $10.2 million will remain unallocated until a later time.
One of the proposed projects includes updating and expanding the California Center for the Arts, Escondido. Representatives for the center were present for the council meeting.
Councilman Mike Morasco said he supports this project, under one condition.
“Here’s the controversial part… I don’t want to give you guys a dime right now until we have a serious meeting about the overreaching mandates that you guys are placing on anyone who utilizes that center as far as vaccines and masking… I’m really upset about that. I’m not going to approve anything for you guys until we have a serious conversation about that,” Morasco said in a heated moment.
The allocation plan was approved 5-0.