As San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg pushes for voter approval in November of a sales tax to fund the city’s post-pandemic economic recovery, the city’s first effort to help those who lost their jobs is getting off the ground.
Wayne Poisson carries boxes of Iced Lemon Pound Cake to a waiting family while volunteering his time in the COVID-19 Response Campaign at the San Antonio Food Bank on Wednesday, July 29, 2020.
Residents hit hard by the pandemic can now apply for a $75 million job training program approved by the City Council earlier this year. The idea is that those who lost their jobs working at hotels, restaurants and retail stores can obtain skills to help them find work in higher-paying fields such as construction, medical care, advanced manufacturing, transportation and information technology.
The city aims to help 10,000 residents through the program over the next year. It will be handled by Workforce Solutions Alamo, Alamo Promise and Project Quest, among others.
“COVID-19 has deeply impacted the livelihoods of San Antonio residents,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. “The city of San Antonio is committed to helping our most vulnerable residents recover from the economic effects of the pandemic, and we can do this best by providing them with training and educational opportunities, so they can get back to work quickly and benefit from a brighter career outlook.”
Nirenberg and city leaders have seized on the coronavirus pandemic’s economic fallout to try to address San Antonio’s long-standing poverty. One way is by providing training and education to the city’s workforce, which community and business leaders have long said lacks the skills necessary to attract major companies to the city.
To that end, City Council pumped $75 million into job training as part of a $191 million economic relief package in early June from a mix of city and federal funds.
Out of the $75 million, about $45 million is for stipends to help participants pay living expenses such as rent and groceries to allow the participants to focus on completing their training and education. Those who qualify for those stipends will receive $15 an hour with the potential to receive up to $450 a week. They have to spent at least six hours a week in an approved training program to get that money.
Another $10 million is set aside for child care, for the same reason.
Training and education is budgeted at $13.6 million.
City officials have said they’re prioritizing residents who live in areas of town with high levels of poverty and concentrations of people of color. They’re also targeting the homeless, people with disabilities and those who were formerly incarcerated.
The funding for the program, however, ends in September 2021.
As a result, the mayor is working on a longer-term recovery plan that involves asking San Antonio voters to approve assigning a 1/8-cent sales tax, now used for other purposes, to pay for job training and college degree programs for those who lost their jobs because of the pandemic.
That would pump another $154 million over four years into recovery efforts. Details about those plans would be worked out if voters approve the funding.
For information about the program that started Monday go to the Workforce Solutions Alamo’s website or call 210-224-4357.
Joshua Fechter is a staff writer covering San Antonio government and politics. To read more from Joshua, become a subscriber. firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @JFreports