[Editor’s Note: this article originally appeared in the Orange County Register]
We know Orange County is missing all that is great about Anaheim ― Disneyland, baseball, hockey, concerts, conventions, entertainment and dining.
But don’t worry. Anaheim will be back.
Right now, we are doing our part. And no other Orange County city has done as much to address the impacts of coronavirus.
We are leading the way with help for our most vulnerable residents, support for businesses and preparation for eventual economic recovery.
As part of our City Council’s emergency community and economic recovery plan adopted in March, Anaheim is spending $8 million to help seniors, families, small businesses and renters.
So far, $1.5 million has gone to 35 nonprofits to provide meals to Anaheim seniors and families as well as for diapers, toilet paper, face coverings and other essential needs.
An additional $6 million is going toward emergency rental assistance for workers who have seen their livelihoods disrupted and for loans of up to $10,000 each for small businesses with five or fewer employees.
The business loans are forgivable if a small business creates a job here in Anaheim within five years.
Both residential and business tenants are protected by an eviction moratorium adopted by our Council in March if they are unable to pay their rent due to impacts of the coronavirus crisis.
Anaheim Public Utilities, our provider of electricity and water to homes and businesses, also has deferred bills for more than 2,600 residential and business customers who are unable to pay right now.
Businesses across our city can extend projects with our planning department at no cost, while others can defer city lodging taxes to ensure operating cash and retain employees.
While accessing federal and state relief can be frustrating, Anaheim is providing an online guide, email updates and consultation on resources available to struggling businesses in our city.
Of course, one of the best ways Anaheim can help residents and businesses is by being there for them in a time of crisis. Anaheim’s police, fire, code enforcement, public works, public utilities and community services teams continue to ensure public safety and life’s necessities.
Anaheim is looking to eventual economic recovery and reopening when California allows us and other cities to do so.
As part of our planning, Anaheim has provided $6.5 million in funding to Visit Anaheim, which books conventions, conferences and other events at the city-owned Anaheim Convention Center.
Much has been made of, and misunderstood about, this action.
With a collapse in hotel funding, Visit Anaheim cut staff and salaries and was at risk of shutting down.
Our city needs Visit Anaheim to reschedule and book new events at the convention center. And the city is already seeing results.
Conditions permitting, Visit Anaheim has rescheduled two deferred conferences for late 2020 and secured eight conventions, conferences and other events for beyond that.
Combined, these 10 events, including two entirely new to Anaheim, could generate nearly $10 million in hotel-stay tax revenue for Anaheim, which would bring funding for public safety and community services.
When economic recovery comes, we know it will be gradual. In the near term, our city, like others, faces the financial challenge of revenue lost to the shutdown and the prospect of a slow, staggered reopening.
As a City Council, we will face difficult decisions ahead.
We look forward to continuing our work with the county of Orange. We trust our county partners recognize the leadership role we’ve taken and will consider directing part of the $554 million in federal aid to Anaheim and others to offset reimbursable costs.
From crisis comes opportunity. We will embrace new ways of looking at and doing things, just as our residents and businesses have.
And, just as Anaheim has before, the city will emerge stronger from our leadership in the time of coronavirus.
Anaheim City Councilman Trevor O’Neil represents District 6.