Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce presents annual State of the City

By Haley Beyer

The Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the City of Santa Monica recently presented its annual State of the City.

The virtual event aired live on CityTV Channel 16 and was streamed on the City of Santa Monica’s YouTube channel. In keeping with this year’s theme, “Our Community Road to Recovery”, the keynote speaker was Congressman Ted Lieu who offered his insights on the path to recovery on a national level.

Chamber president Laurel Rosen pointed out that 130 privately owned businesses in Santa Monica have permanently closed during the pandemic. To help businesses that are still open but struggling, a “small business relief fund” will be put in place once funding becomes available, and small business strike teams will be introduced to settle conflicts such as permitting issues.

Attendees watched a short video, “Santa Monica Shines”, about an assurance program on how to make customers and employees of businesses feel safe in the workplace, and to guarantee health and wellness for all involved with safety and comfort in mind.

Interim city manager Lane Dilg mentioned that “135 members of the community have been lost to the virus” yet “Santa Monica has had the lowest COVID-19 numbers of the LA area.” More than 7,000 residents are currently unemployed and 72% of the businesses that are open are struggling to stay in business. The city’s three main focuses are mental and physical health, homelessness and lack of food availability.

Between the damage caused by the riots following George Floyd’s death and the pandemic, the City of Santa Monica now understands what areas need improvement. There are over “600 with rental assistance” and “over 100 within senior living homes with rental assistance” that show how the human right to shelter has become a big problem. Though the budget is balanced, city staff has been reduced by 300 members and economic activity is low due to the lack of tourism and so forth.

Outdoor areas around the city are being redesigned to accommodate social distancing while offering spaces for members of the community to enjoy. The north beach trail was widened, new protected bike lanes have been added and final touches have been put on Belmar Park, to name a few.

Funding is also going towards various art initiatives to maintain the spirit of Santa Monica. A new form of financial aid, “We Are Santa Monica”, has been created to gather money to give to the community. The goal is to raise enough funding to support 1,000 small businesses.

Between the pandemic and the response to the systemic racism, the number of individuals dealing with a mental health crisis has increased drastically. Santa Monica mayor Sue Himmelrich stated that her goal is to give everyone the option to “step outside the walls of their houses and into the sunshine of Santa Monica with respect and hearts full of love” when it is safe to do so. She is hopeful for a future where small businesses help run the town.

Two of Himmelrich’s main goals include preventing rental eviction by “walking the road of recovery together” and providing access to affordable housing. The community has truly come together as there has also been an increase in food distribution centers and a significant rise in helping seniors get signed up for COVID-19 vaccinations. Himmelrich also shared that the local farmers market and animal shelters are places that need more volunteers.

Next, Lieu discussed the stimulus relief package including the need for $1.9 trillion in funding for unemployment and housing with $27 million going directly to Santa Monica for the pandemic. This money would cover setting up testing and vaccination areas, business owners, rental protection, child care, health care and frontline worker job protection. Lieu mentioned current legislation that he is working on including subnational diplomacy and brought up the need for $5 billion from the federal government to help the homeless community.

To make a donation to We Are Santa Monica, visit calfund.org/wearesantamonica

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