Use CARES Act funds for Universal Internet access, job training

May 19, 2020

 

 

The COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest economic and public health crisis of our lives.

 

We should all be grateful and honored that our entire community has come together, working as a team - to protect our parents, our partners, spouses and children - to keep them safe.  Our collective efforts are working.

 

We have flattened the curve of the first wave of the disease, and we should be proud of that — although we remain in the middle of the storm.

 

Our community must begin moving toward recovery and community revitalization.  And at the same time, we must ensure that we are prepared for a potential second wave of COVID-19 cases.

 

It is essential that we get this right. And I am determined to craft the recovery in a way that builds our community in a more equitable way.

 

This is the time to reboot. We should challenge ourselves to emerge from this crisis as a community that no longer accepts generational poverty as a fact of life.

 

It is unacceptable that normal includes almost 60,000 people seeking emergency food assistance during any given week.

 

It is unacceptable that normal includes thousands of students not receiving an equitable education opportunity because they don’t have access to Internet service at their house. 

 

The internet is a utility as essential as water and electricity. The digital divide must be bridged. We must have a broadband network that reaches every family in San Antonio because every resident has a right to information. If we are going to preach equity, we need to get serious about digital inclusion.

 

Housing security is a necessity as well. We must not allow homelessness to grow.      

 

And we must focus on workforce development, job training and ensuring that the businesses providing jobs for San Antonians can flourish.

 

We, collectively, must consider the $270 million in funding that San Antonio has received through the CARES Act as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to be bold, to put up, and follow through on what we all know needs to be done.

 

The necessary priorities for this money set aside by Congress for social good are clear.

 

The funds available for recovery efforts must be targeted at universal Internet access, workforce development, housing security and small business support.

 

Some of the money could be used to continue the Emergency Assistance Fund when the initial $25 million allotted by City Council is used. More than 7,000 households have sought assistance.

 

During the next month, we will dig into the details. The public will get an early look at the process at this week’s City Council B session when city staff briefs the council on possible uses.

 

Already, we know which way we must move and where we must end.

 

And we must reboot. And find a healthier normal. We must end as an equitable city, where all residents have a fair chance at an education and a good job.

 

 

Ron Nirenberg is mayor of San Antonio.

 

 

 

 

 

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