Mayor Mendenhall proposes budget to equitably address community COVID needs

Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced six budget proposals aimed at developing a more equitable short- and long-term COVID recovery in the city.

These proposals, which are now before the Salt Lake City Council for approval, include measures aimed at supporting community health needs, broadening digital equity, assisting diverse entrepreneurship and studying the feasibility of impact investments aimed at broadening equity and diversity in industries poised to bolster long-term economic recovery in Salt Lake City. 

“Salt Lake City residents need innovative and agile solutions, not only to make it through the next six months of the pandemic, but also to thrive well beyond that,” Mayor Mendenhall said. “These proposals create immediate assistance for the hardships our residents have encountered as a result of COVID, and create a pathway for future investments that enable a more equitable recovery and future.”

Proposals include:

Association for Utah Community Health – $50,000

The Association for Utah Community Health (AUCH) does extensive outreach and provides support for community members who have been impacted by COVID-19. The organization facilitates patient needs ranging from filling prescriptions, providing hygiene kits, and other items not typically covered by traditional funding sources, like rental assistance. This investment would be in addition to the $1.1 million recently allocated to rental and mortgage assistance and rapid rehousing.

Digital Equity Improvements – $75,000

A portion of this funding will allow the city to create, for the first time, the backbone for a Wi-Fi system on Ensign Peak that will enable a multi-point solution for Public Wi-Fi. Remaining budget will allow the city to stand up three remote sites to facilitate public wi-fi connection in areas of the city experiencing digital inequity. The remote sites will be mobile, allowing for them to be moved to accommodate new or changing needs within the community.  

Water Assist – $25,000

Implemented in the 1980s, Salt Lake City Public Utilities’ Water Assist Program, which is administered by The Salvation Army, helps hundreds of residents each year in paying their Public Utilities bill. The program provides limited financial assistance and budget counseling to eligible residents experiencing difficulty paying their bills. The program is funded through donations and Public Utilities has periodically contributed up to $10,000 per year. But throughout the pandemic there have been fewer donations accompanied by an increased need. With just over $500 remaining in the program, the additional $25,000 will go a long way to help residents get back on track with their utility bills.

City Arts Grant – $25,000 

As communities of color continue to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, the Arts Council would use this funding to create a grant category modeled after national programs aimed at enhancing racial equity. Individual artists of color, organizations serving communities of color and arts organizations working to develop equity and inclusion training, planning or professional development could be eligible to receive a grant.

The Suazo Center – $25,000

The Suazo Center facilitates the development and empowerment of existing and potential diverse entrepreneurs in their efforts to build successful businesses. The proposed funding would assist the Center in the continuation of its mission and allow the City a seat on the Center’s advisory board, creating an opportunity to enhance collaboration on City initiatives with the Suazo Business Center and the diverse communities it serves. 

Sorenson Impact Bond Study – $50,000 

This funding would allow the City to work with the Sorenson Impact Center to conduct a feasibility study on innovative financial tools to create greater social and racial equity. This project, which would be a novel endeavor for Salt Lake City, would fund sustainable investments that will over time shrink opportunity gaps with the ultimate goal of building workforce equity and diversity in targeted industries in the City.