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Vital Conversations: How Can San Antonio Build Back Better After COVID-19?

Katie Haugland Bowen/Flickr http://bit.ly/2P3u903

In the past seven months, San Antonio has experienced losses of both life and economic stability due to COVID-19; employment, housing and food insecurities; and a racial reckoning that culminated in weeks of protests against police brutality and systemic racism.

For Ana Sandoval, San Antonio City Council representative for District 7, housing insecurity is not a new issue in San Antonio.

“The truth is we had too many people who needed assistance even before COVID. Thousands of families who would still need to go to the food bank every month, even though the heads of those households were working full time jobs, sometimes more than one,” Sandoval said. “Even though we had really low unemployment. That didn't mean that people were OK.”

Sandoval said the city needs to reenvision its metrics for success. Part of that realignment will be taking into account the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had and will continue to have on San Antonio residents.

Dr. Ana Margarita “Cha” Guzman, chair of the San Antonio Housing Authority and former president of Palo Alto College, said SAHA is adapting to the pandemic in its policies.

“We are prepared to have less income from our tenants because we know that they are the first to be fired and the last to be hired and, and so we have funds that we have allocated first to help our tenants with the food needs that they have,” Guzman said. “We are not charging late fees. When our tenants are late in their fee, we work with them individually, so that if they've lost their job, then we change the application so that their rent will go down to the minimum.”

Guzman said in April, SAHA put aside $50 million for rental assistance. In addition to that, $25 million of CARES Act funding will be put toward housing assistance and advocacy services.

Tommy Calvert, Bexar County Commissioner for Precinct 4, said no matter what the city and county do to help residents, there needs to be follow-up.

“What appears to be happening is the establishment has created a process so that people could get their frustrations out, but there is not really follow-up and follow-through. And so if we do nothing, we're going to have a very, very hurt desperate and I think a community potentially at some level of war with itself,” Calvert said.

This is part one of a series of Vital Conversations.


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*This program was recorded on Thursday, July 30.

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Kathleen Creedon can be reached at kathleen@tpr.org or on Twitter at @Kath_Creedon