Archive for the ‘Finance’ Category

Antioch School Board adopts $247 million annual district budget, revisions expected in August

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

By Allen Payton

During their Wednesday, June 24, 2020 meeting, the Antioch School Board voted unanimously to approve the district’s 2020-21 fiscal year budget of $247.7 million. However, many changes to the district’s budget are expected based on the final negotiations between the governor and legislature, and the governor’s line item vetoes in the state budget. The school board will consider revisions in early August. (See the entire 224-page budget, here)

“We have the opportunity to adopt our budget even if the state hasn’t adopted theirs… we are obligated to meet our obligation by June 30,” said Deputy Superintendent Jessica Romeo. “If there is a budget adopted after we adopt ours, we do a 45-day revision to our budget. There are significant revisions from the May Revise. We will do that at the first meeting in August.”

According to the staff report, “The California Legislature met its constitutional deadline of passing the state budget on or before June 15, and it is anticipated that a budget will be signed by the Governor on or before June 30, 2020.”

However, “the Governor and the Legislature are negotiating the differences between the two plans, and it is currently expected that an agreement will be reached before the end of June.”

“We will maintain our mandatory reserve of 3.7%, and actually 3.8%,” Romeo stated. “I’m

The District’s Budget is comprised of eleven separate funds, the General Fund is the primary fund of the District AUSD Budget. The other 10 funds are Adult Education, Cafeteria Special Reserve, Deferred Maintenance, Building Fund, Capital Facilities, Special Reserve for Capital Outlay, Capital Projects Fund for Blended Component Units, Bond Interest and Redemption, Retiree Benefit Fund and Foundation Private-Purpose Trust fund.

However, the General Fund, which pays for all district employee salaries and benefits, is more than 83% of the budget and is divided into two parts. The Unrestricted portion is 56.59% of the AUSD Total Budget, and the Restricted portion makes up 27.34%.

“We’re just going to anticipate that this is going to change drastically,” Trustee Ellie Householder said.

“Yes,” responded Romeo.

The budget was adopted on a motion by Trustee Mary Rocha and second by Trustee Gary Hack, passing on a 5-0 vote by the board.

“Thank you to staff. It’s not over, yet,” Board President Diane Gibson-Gray said.

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Antioch School Board president donates annual stipend, training and travel allocation back to district

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

“I’m going to stand in solidarity with the employees” – Trustee Diane Gibson-Gray

Antioch School Board President Diane Gibson-Gray. Herald file photo.

By Allen Payton

In light of the recent layoffs to district classified staff, during the Antioch School Board meeting on Wednesday night, June 10, 2020, Board President Diane Gibson-Gray gave back her $10,800 in monthly stipend, and annual training and travel budget allocation, and suggested the board members do the same.

Each trustee receives $400 per month in stipend and annual travel and training budgets totaling $6,000 each.

“That would be $54,000 per year if we all do it,” she said.

“I’m not in agreement with that,” said Sawyer-White. “I have health care benefits for myself and my son. Other districts are considering cuts with administrators.”

She then mentioned wanting to complete governance training using her travel and training budget allocation.

“No one has completed governance training. There can be cuts, elsewhere,” Sawyer-White added.

“I’m just suggesting people volunteer. I’m going to do it on my own,” Gibson-Gray stated.

“This is kind of a tie back. This is why a budget study session would be important,” said Trustee Ellie Householder. “What impact $54,00 would have on the budget? I do not feel comfortable in doing that at this time.”

“When I put this on, we weren’t going to be in the position we’re going to be in June,” Gibson-Gray explained. “I’m just going to give mine back. I’m going to stand in solidarity if we’re unable to give employees raises.”

The board then moved on to other matters.

Approve Job Description for New Centralized Registration & Enrollment Technician

In other action, the board approved the job description of the new Centralized Registration and Enrollment Technician on a 4-1 split vote, with Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White voting against.

According to the staff report, the Centralized Registration/Enrollment Technician will assist parents/guardians and students with District programs, student assignment procedures and enrollment under the direction of a Director, Educational Services or other assigned administrator. The position will perform a variety of technical and specialized functions unique to the Centralized Enrollment Center.

The position will consolidate the responsibilities of all the school site registration and enrollment staff that were given layoff notices effective the end of July, due to the board’s vote at their last meeting on May 27, 2020. (See related article).

Sawyer-White was not happy with the creation of the new position and wanted the registrars for each school restored.

“It took my son over two hours to go through registration,” she complained. “We need the registrars back at the schools.”

To watch and listen to the complete Antioch School Board meeting on YouTube click here. For this discussion see the 2:09 mark of the video and item 11 of the meeting agenda by clicking here.

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Antioch Police services are just 27.3% of overall city budget, not 62%

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

From page 55 of the City of Antioch’s Adopted Budget for 2019-21 (page 70 of the overall document).

With total annual budget revenues of $158 million the City of Antioch spends $43 million on police services.

By Allen Payton

This is in response to public comments during the Antioch City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 9, 2020 which included calls for the defunding of the police department claiming it takes up 62% of the city’s budget. In addition, copies of the city’s General Fund pie chart were distributed to participants during a Black Lives Matter protest held in Antioch on Tuesday. Hopefully, this will help educate them so they make policy suggestions in the future based on the facts, not rumor and misinformation.

From page vi of the City of Antioch’s Adopted Budget for 2019-21 (page 10 of the overall document).

What all of those people didn’t do was their homework, which could have been accomplished with a simple online search to learn about the actual details in the city’s two-year budget for the 2019-2020 and 2020-21 fiscal years. Please click here to view and see pages vi (10) and vii (11) of the 330-page document that can be found on the Finance Department’s page on the City’s website. (NOTE: This last sentence has been corrected. The previous pages referred to the June 25, 2019 Antioch Council meeting agenda in which the proposed two-year budget was included for council adoption and was 776 pages long).

In the current 2019-20 fiscal year ending on June 30th, the General Fund makes up just 44% of the city’s overall budget. That figure is projected to rise slightly to 44.1% in the next fiscal year beginning July 1st. Of that 62% was spent on police and public safety this year and 62.1% is budgeted in the 2020-21 fiscal year. So, that means only 27.3% to 27.4% of the city’s budget was and will be spent on police services during the current two-year budget cycle.

From page vii of the City of Antioch’s Adopted Budget for 2019-21 (page 11 of the overall document).

What the people who spoke during the council meeting also don’t seem to understand, remember or be aware of – most likely because they are young and couldn’t vote when the ballot measures passed or don’t live here – is that the voters of Antioch voted twice to pass a sales tax increase and spend most of the additional revenue on more police and public safety.

As a result, the City of Antioch has been hiring more police since 2013, and just last year, finally fulfilled the promise made in 2013 by the then-mayor and council members of 22 more police officers, immediately. That was when there were 89 sworn officers on the force and Antioch now has 115 sworn officers.

Then, with the passage of Measure W in 2018, increasing the sales tax to one percent, the voters told the council to spend most of the funds to “restore the number of police officers patrolling City streets” and “to increase investment in code enforcement, clean up blight, road repairs, support youth and senior services, and attract new business and jobs to Antioch.” The priorities for use of the Measure W sales tax funds are as follows:

  • Continuing to maintain 911 police response and restore the number of police officers patrolling City streets
  • Ensuring water quality and safety
  • Maintaining Antioch’s quality of life and financial stability
  • Cleaning up illegal dumping
  • Restoring after-school and summer programs for youth

Going back to the City’s original formation documents in 1872, the City of Antioch was incorporated for the purpose of “police and other matters.” Police services and public safety have always been the number one reason the city government exists and the top budget priority. But, it does not make up more than a majority of the City’s overall budget. It’s closer to one-fourth.

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Antioch Council approves spending $1.4 million of Coronavirus CARES Act funds, $7.5 million in federal funds overall

Tuesday, May 12th, 2020

“The council subcommittee is recommending an unprecedented $2,924,946 in CDBG funds,” said Terri House, the City’s CDBG Consultant.

By Allen Payton

During their meeting on Tuesday night, May 12, 2020, on a unanimous vote, the council approved spending plans for $7.5 million of federal funds, including $1.4 million of Coronavirus CARES Act funding. ACC Federal Funds presentation

According to the staff presentation, the City of Antioch has joined with the cities of Concord, Pittsburg, Walnut Creek and the County on behalf of the rest of the cities to create the Contra Costa HOME/CDBG Consortium to plan for entire county, and prepare the joint Consolidated Plan.

According to the city staff report – Action #1: The recommended action has no immediate fiscal impact; however, it will guide the funding decisions of approximately $6,000,000 in future CDBG and other funding over the 2020-25 Consolidated Plan period, and commits a total of $1,404,946 in CDBG and CDBG-CV (Corona Virus CARES funding) for FY 2020-21 to address identified high priority needs of the City in general public services, homeless services, housing and prevention, senior and youth services, economic development, infrastructure, housing, and CDBG administration.

Of the $1.4 million Antioch will receive $509,257 to address effects of the pandemic.

Highest priorities include:

  • Emergency assistance for rent, mortgage, and utility payments for those affected by “Stay At Home” order or other effects of Covid-19;
  • Assistance for renters to understand City’s Eviction and Rent Moratorium, and to direct them to City emergency assistance and other resources; and
  • Food assistance for homeless and seniors.

The process will begin in October with applications by non-profit organizations due in December.

Action #2: The recommended action has no impact to the General Fund but commits a total of $1,520,000 in Housing Successor Low Income Housing funds for FY 2020-21 to address identified high priority housing and homeless needs of the City.

“The council subcommittee is recommending an unprecedented $2,924,946 in CDBG funds,” said Terri House, the City’s CDBG Consultant.

The council approved the expenditure plans for Fiscal Years 20-21 and 20-25 on a 5-0 vote.

The meeting will be rebroadcast on Comcast local cable channel 24 on Thursday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m. or can be viewed on the City’s website.

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Applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for business owners, self-employed and independent contractors begins April 28

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

Information on State and Federal Benefit Payments

From – https://edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019/pandemic-unemployment-assistance.htm

As part of the federal CARES Act, the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program helps unemployed Californians who are business owners, self-employed, independent contractors, have limited work history, and others not usually eligible for regular state UI benefits who are out of business or services are significantly reduced as a direct result of the pandemic. The provisions of the program once operational include:

  • Up to 39 weeks of benefits starting with weeks of unemployment beginning February 2, 2020, through the week ending December 26, 2020*, depending on when you became directly impacted by the pandemic.
  • An additional $600 to each PUA weekly benefit amount you may be eligible to receive, as part of the separate CARES Act Pandemic Additional Compensation program. Only the weeks of a claim between March 29 and July 25* are eligible for the extra $600 payments.

* Under the CARES Act of 2020, the $600 additional benefits are available through 07/31/20. However, the U.S. Department of Labor has issued guidance to clarify that, for most Californians, the last full week of benefits will end on 07/25/20. Similarly, the PUA program has a legislative end date of 12/31/20, but for Californians the last full week of benefits will end on 12/26/20.

Benefits can be retroactive to weeks starting on or after February 2, 2020, depending on your last day of work due to COVID-19 and regardless of when you submitted your claim application. The effective date of your claim will begin the Sunday of the week when you last worked and became unemployed due to reasons directly related to COVID-19.

Important Information

Note: Because this is a brand new program, each state will need time to develop all of the necessary system programming, forms, processes, and procedures. This page will be updated as information becomes available, including when and how to apply for these benefits. Once this new complex program is built and staffed, it will likely rival the size of the regular UI program the EDD already administers.

As we work to implement this new program, you can:

Eligibility

The PUA benefits are payable if you don’t qualify for regular UI benefits in California or another state and also do not qualify for State Disability Insurance or Paid Family Leave benefits. This includes:

  • Business owners
  • Self-employed individuals
  • Independent contractors

You can also be eligible if you qualified for regular UI benefits, but have collected all benefits for which they are eligible.

If you are not a citizen of the United States, you cannot be paid PUA benefits unless you were legally permitted to work in the United States at the time such services were performed. In addition, you must be authorized to work for any week of PUA benefits claimed to be eligible for payments.

You must also meet one of the following criteria:

  • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a medical diagnosis.
  • You are unable to work because a health care provider advised you to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
  • A member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You are providing care for a family member or a member of your household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • A child or other person in the household for whom you have primary caregiving responsibility is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 and the school or facility care is required for you to work.
  • You became the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • You have to quit your job as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • Your place of employment is closed as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • You were scheduled to start a job that is now unavailable as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • You are unable to reach the place of employment as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • If you work as an independent contractor with reportable income, you may also qualify for PUA benefits if you are unemployed, partially employed, or unable or unavailable to work because the COVID-19 public health emergency has severely limited your ability to continue performing your customary work activities, and has thereby forced you to stop working.

Benefit Payments

In order to provide benefits as quickly as possible, payments will be issued in phases. If you qualify for PUA, and depending on the effective date of your PUA claim, the initial payments you will receive are as follows:

  • Phase 1 – $167 per week for each week you were unemployed from February 2, 2020 to March 28, 2020 due to a COVID-19 related reason.
  • Phase 2 – $167 plus $600 per week for each week you were unemployed from March 29, 2020 to July 25, 2020, due to a COVID-19 related reason.
  • Phase 3 – $167 per week, for each week from July 26, 2020 to December 26, 2020, that you are unemployed due to a COVID-19 related reason, up to a total of 39 weeks (minus any weeks of regular UI and certain extended UI benefits that you have received).

Note: If you qualify for your claim to be backdated to an earlier PUA effective date based on your last day of work, you could receive payment for prior weeks you were unemployed due to COVID-19.

You will be required to “certify” for your benefit payment. Certifying is the process of answering basic questions every two weeks that tells us you’re still unemployed and otherwise eligible to continue receiving biweekly payments.

When to File a Claim

We have a dedicated team working around the clock with state partners to build this new program as quickly as possible. The EDD will begin accepting online applications for this program on Tuesday, April 28. This page will be updated with instructions for filing a claim for PUA benefits when details become available.

If you are unsure if you are an independent contractor or an employee who could be eligible for benefits, file for regular Unemployment Insurance benefits and we will determine your eligibility.

After you have filed, refer to our step-by-step UI claims process. You’ll learn what to expect and the actions you need to take through the course of your claim for receiving benefit payments as long as you’re eligible.

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Supervisors ban evictions, rent increases during COVID-19 shelter in place with 6-month grace period

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

No late fees for 120 days

By Daniel Borsuk

Residential and commercial renters will get some rental and eviction relief during the COVID-19 pandemic after the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to approve an ordinance containing a 180-day grace period, two months more than what supervisors initially had in mind, during a special meeting on Tuesday. (See entire ordinance, here).

By liberally extending the grace period an extra two months, supervisors are handing over to thousands of renters in the county more financial and housing relief during this stressful period when COVID-19 has decimated their financial livelihood. In March, the county’s unemployment rate was 4 percent and April’s unemployment rate will very likely rise sharply when it is release later on.

Instead of inserting a 120-day grace period that other counties like Santa Clara County have inserted in its COVID-19 rent control and eviction moratoria ordinance, Contra Costa County supervisors at the request of District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond convinced other supervisors that a longer grace period is needed given the uncertainty of the duration of the medical and economic repercussions from the current local and state-mandated stay-at-home orders.

Gioia said he favored the more expansive 180-day grace period because the ordinance, as it was proposed to supervisors, does not protect all tenants whether they are delinquent or current in their rent.

“You have to be up to date on rent in order to be protected by the ordinance presented by counsel,” said Gioia. “It’s very unfortunate that the governor’s order requires this. Tenants must be current on rent to qualify for the grace period.”

Supervisors listened to 45 emailed comments from county residents, most of whom were in support of at least a 120-day grace period, little knowing that Gioia would propose a more expansive 180-day grace period.

“We’re dealing with uncertain times,” said District 3 Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood. “We’re dealing with people who have not paid rent. People who have lost jobs because businesses have shut down.”

District 4 Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill preferred to retain the ordinance’s 120-day grace period clause saying it was sufficient for renters, but eventually agreed to the 180-day grace period for rent and eviction moratoria purposes until May 25 when supervisors plan to revisit the issue.

Other features of the ordinance taken mainly from the Santa Clara County ordinance include countywide, no-fault evictions, definition of owner, attorney fees, and no late fees.

Public Health Ad Hoc Committee Created

While COVID-19 health measures will remain in place for the foreseeable future, Board Chair Andersen proposed the creation of an ad hoc Public Health Committee that will weekly with county health department officials.

The committee that will consist of Burgis and Board Chair and District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville. The committee’s key role is to be advisory to supervisors and Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Christopher Farnitano who will retain ultimate authority on health issues.

“This is not meant to replace the health officer’s directive,” said Supervisor Mitchoff. “There’s been some concern about communication. People are getting frustrated.”

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Antioch Council given two mid-year budget projections with reduced revenues due to coronavirus

Tuesday, April 14th, 2020

While both budgets project a healthy reserve with a transfer in from the Stabilization Fund, one budget projects the city “will completely run out of money in Fiscal Year ‘25”

By Allen Payton

During their meeting on Tuesday night, the Antioch City Council was presented with two proposed mid-year budgets for Fiscal Years 2019-21 for them to review and give input for a final vote on April 28. Both budgets show a deficit in Fiscal Year ‘19-20 of approximately $4 million mostly from a previous legal settlement and re-appropriated funds from the previous fiscal year. The results of the coronavirus pandemic is projected to have an impact on the proposed FY ‘20-21 budgets. See complete agenda item, here: 2019-21 Mid-Year Budget Review ACC041420

“This budget report is unique, as we are three to four weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s having an impact on revenue,” said City Manager Ron Bernal.

“We’ve prepared two budgets for council, tonight. We’ll come back on April 28 for a final, Mid-Year Budget that we’ll ask you to adopt. Then have us come back in August with a study session with a better idea of impacts of COVID-19,” he continued. “Fortunately, for the City of Antioch, our property taxes are well diversified. Antioch is in a good position. But what we want to do is make you aware that there is a possibility we could be running into difficulties.” See budget details, here: 2019-21 Mid-Year Budget Comparisons

According to the staff report, both budgets project healthy reserves at the end of each fiscal year and reflect a transfer in from the Stabilization Fund to balance the budget.

“The CAL-PERS (state’s public employee retirement) fund has lost a great amount of its value. So, that will have impacts for years to come,” Bernal explained. “There’s a lot of uncertainties in this budget. But we have enough certainties to ask for your input.”

“We really do not know how this is going to roll down to the City of Antioch. We have best projections on sales tax revenues,” said City Finance Director Dawn Merchant. “We are fortunate to have a Costco, Walmart and Target, all three businesses that are operating during this time.”

“The city could have a $4 million short fall in sales tax, next year. It will be a deferral. But, that’s only if all businesses take the sales tax deferral” being offered by the state, she explained.

Merchant said the budget version one expects that “sales tax will start to rebound in Fiscal Year ’22.”

In version two “the city completely runs out of money in Fiscal Year ’25,” she explained. “We don’t know where we’re going to lie. I don’t want to be too optimistic. But we want to be fiscally prudent, at this time.”

Mayor Sean Wright and the council members then offered direction to staff.

Wright proposed holding off on contributions to OPEB (Other Postemployment Benefits for retired city employees) of $1.3 million and $500,000 in one-time expenditures to “allow us to go into ‘20-21 without a deficit.”

His suggestions include the public information officer and risk manager positions.

“I’m a stickler on the OPEB,” said Council Member Lori Ogorchock. “On the other ones you mentioned, I don’t have a problem,” except for cutting the funds for median improvements.

“Related to the PIO…the current contract extension is through September ’20,” said Bernal. “So, we will have a $24,000 commitment to complete the contract.”

“It may be something to come back and consider in September, depending on how hard COVID hits us,” Wright responded.

“What if we look at version one and we come back closer to August and consider the changes we’re going to make?” asked Ogorchock “Do we have to before August or can we wait until August?”

“You can give direction to the city manager with positions and hold off on any definitive hiring. You do have that alternative…to stall on the hiring until we know more,” Merchant responded.

“I’m OK on holding off, that includes holding off on some of these projects, like the utility box (painting),” Wright said.

“We’re not going to get all these positions hired before April 28, not even until August,” Ogorchock responded. “I think if we go with version one…we are moving in a positive direction. Like Ron said, we are in a good position. Property taxes still have to be paid and the property values haven’t gone down.”

“Some of these have already gone out, correct?” Council Member Monica Wilson asked.

“We have the artists lined up, but we haven’t given them the work to do, yet,” Bernal explained. “What we have listed here are things we haven’t committed to, yet.”

“I’m OK with going forward with version one…if that’s what council wants to do,” Wright stated.

“I just want to make sure is we do include the $75,000 for the part-time unhoused resident coordinator for FY 20-21,” said Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts. “I’m OK with going forward with versions one and two and reviewing it in August.”

“I’m OK with version one then going forward to August,” Wilson stated.

“I’m not for stopping anything. Let’s keep the ball rolling, particularly with OPEB,” Council Member Lamar Thorpe said.

“For the $850,000 in OPEB for Fiscal Year 2020, we have to put it in the budget by June 30th,” Merchant explained.

“If we have to do it by the final June meeting, we can hold off,” Ogorchock said.

“The direction I heard, Dawn was that we would keep rolling forward with the OPEB,” Wright stated.

Regarding the parking abatement team, “they’re pulling all those cars off our streets,” Ogorchock said.

“It’s not included in either budget version, so, it will add approximately $21,000,” Merchant said. “Council Member Thorpe said he was fine holding off on it.”

“We can hold off on deciding on it,” Motts said.

Merchant asked about Motts’ proposal to add in $75,000 for the unhoused resident coordinator.

“Let’s hold off on that so we can talk with our consultants,” Thorpe said.

The council held off making any cuts or additions to the proposed budgets, for now.

Approves $27 Million Settlement with Department of Water Resources

In other action, on a unanimous vote the city council approved the settlement agreement with the Department of Water Resources (“DWR”) of $27 million, replacing the 1968 agreement over the city’s pre-1914 rights to the river water. (See related article)

Approves Urgency Ordinance on Land Use, Subdivision and Zoning Applications

In addition, in response to the Emergency Declaration by City Manager Bernal on March 17, the council approved an “Urgency Ordinance Suspending Automatic Deemed Complete and Approval Deadlines for all Land Use, Subdivision, and Zoning Applications”.

According to the staff report by Forrest Ebbs, Community Development Director, “Both state and local land use laws impose a variety of timelines for the review and action on land use applications. Failure to comply with these timelines can lead to applications being deemed incomplete at the front end of the process or actually not being deemed approved at the back end. In either event, the impact of failing to meet these timelines is limit on the City’s (and the public’s) ability to review and comment on pending land use applications.”

Due to the current situation “it is difficult or impossible for the City of Antioch to process land use applications within normal time limits imposed by state and local laws,” Ebbs added in his report.

Formed Transitional Housing Ad Hoc Committee

In the council’s final action of the meeting, they approved the formation of a Transitional Housing Ad Hoc Committee. Motts and Thorpe want the City Council to continue their work helping the homeless, now that the Homeless Encampment Ad Hoc Committee was dissolved, earlier this year.

The committee will “explore transitional housing opportunities, which are designed to provide homeless individuals and families with the interim stability and support to successfully move to and maintain independent permanent housing, and support services for unhoused residents of the City of Antioch.”

The council approved a motion to form the committee for six months and appoint Motts and Thorpe to serve on it.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:03 p.m.

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Antioch Council adopts moratorium on evictions in Antioch, gives renters 90 days to reimburse landlord for each month of non-payment

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

Applies to both residential and commercial properties

By Allen Payton

In response to the shelther in place due to the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, during their special meeting on Tuesday, March 31, 2020, the Antioch City Council adopted a moratorium banning evictions for residential and business property through May 31, 2020 and giving tenants who are unable to pay 90 days to catch up on their rent for each month they’re in arrears. ACC2020.03.31 – URGENCY ORDINANCE – Moratorium on Evictions

According to City Attorney Thomas Smith, the difference between this ordinance and the governor’s executive order is that the city’s gives renters six months to reimburse their landlord.

Following public comments, Councilman Lamar Thorpe was the first council member to share his thoughts.

“I just want to ask the city attorney what differentiates what we’re doing versus what the state has done,” he said.

“This is also addressing business,” said City Attorney Thomas Smith. “This pandemic is having an impact beyond residents.”

“There is a loss of demand out there because everyone is staying home,” he continued. “Only people who are providing essential things…people are going to online entities. This also addresses the commercial impact. Employees need someplace to go back to when this pandemic is over.”

“The governor gave seven days after the person can’t pay rent to inform the landlord,” Smith continued. “This gives 14 days.”

“It’s overall a broader ordinance…including six months in order to pay back their rent,” he concluded.

“We’re including commercial, we’re thinking about the small business owner, and we’re extending to 14 days,” Thorpe said.

“And giving six months to pay their rent.” Smith added.

“Can you give the rationale…this time period after your rent is due,” Thorpe asked.

“One of the things we know is, COVID-19 is potentially a killer,” Smith responded. “If you’re sick with it, it can and will completely, in some cases, shut you down. If you’re in need of intensive care, it’s safe to assume you’re not focused on ‘oh, I missed my rent.’ So, it gives people some breaks. There literally is some grace periods…is something we’re offering recognizing the seriousness, if it’s a COVID-related impact.”

“The only final thought I’ll add is, the way we framed this urgency ordinance…as we think about, I think the scope to me is still too narrow,” Thorpe stated. “I strongly urge we consider focus on moratorium on evictions during the coronavirus/COVID-19 emergency.”

Councilwoman Monica Wilson asked that an email from a resident was read.

“In regards to the unpaid rent, can we…change the line to ‘120-day grace period per month’,” she asked.

“The 14-day grace period is the front end, and then on the back end is the six months after the expiration of the ordinance,” Smith said. “Six months is longer than 120 days.”

“Per month of missed rent,” Wilson reiterated.

“What this says, the tenant must pay within six months,” Smith explained.

“It’s giving them up to a year for repayment,” Wilson said.

“What Councilmember Wilson is saying, if it’s two months, it would be 240 days, which would be eight months,” Mayor Sean Wright explained.

“Hmmm. That’s interesting,” Smith said.

“I believe other cities are doing this,” Wilson said.

“Concord has a 90-day grace period,” Smith responded.

“If it ends May 31, it would be two months,” Wright said.

“Ours doesn’t necessarily end May 31st,” Smith responded. “It’s within your discretion…”

“I’m adding this and wondering if members on this council…” Wilson started to say.

“Councilwoman Wilson’s idea, I like that idea,” Thorpe stated.

“The 90 days kind of mirrors Concord’s,” Wright said.

Mayor Pro Tem Motts then said, “I think it’s kind of absurd that people who are going to be without income for two or three months, they’re going to be able to repay in two or three months. I think we’re setting them up for failure. I understand what the landlord is saying.”

“Nothing in here prohibits landlords or tenants from making other arrangements,” she said. “I like, Monica what you had to say, here.”

“I agree with Councilman Thorpe’s comments…the language should be ‘during the COVID-19 emergency’,” she stated. “I want our businesses to be comfortable that they scan stay in business.”

Councilmember Lori Ogorchock asked what the other council members meant by their comments.

Wright explained that the ordinance includes six months from May 31st but the other councilmembers are suggesting 120 days per month for renters to pay their back rent.

“I don’t know if I’m in agreement with that,” Ogorchock said. “I have received calls. Some of these rentals are the only income some of these people have. You’re taking salaries and income away from other people who rely on these funds. If you’re going to give them a year to repay, it will make it hard for them.”

“Some landlords have sent out letters to their tenants, including commercial tenants, giving them time to repay,” she continued. “I think going beyond these timeframes would make it difficult for these landlords.”

“Landlords are free to work out whatever they want,” Thorpe said. “This just sets a framework…a process that says this is the way it will work out.”

“Part of what it does is strengthen the bargaining position of the tenant,” Smith said. “It gives a baseline, as you said. At a minimum what we saying to businesses is we’re supporting them.”

“These are unprecedented times,” Wright said. “Never before has government told the public 80% of them can’t go to work. So, government, I believe should stay out of these kinds of things. Over 50% of our residents are paycheck to paycheck. I think this is something we have to do. The moratorium, I’m fine with it being until May 31st or until this ends.”

“The problem is the landlord, I spoke to my bank, they give me three months of forebearance,” he continued. “But at the end of those 90 days I owe every bit of it.”

“I think the 90 days, it gives the tenant six months if it goes a third month, it extends another 90 days. I know it’s hard for the landlords,” Wright continued. “But they’re going to have to work with their mortgage holder.”

Change the moratorium to urgency for COVID-19

“Going back to what I was saying about the owners of these properties, it’s not going to do the renters any good if the owners lose their properties,” Ogorchock stated. “We have to be very careful what we’re doing.”

Wright reopened public comment.

Several comments asked the council to also consider a moratorium on rent increases, as well.

Others requested that no late fees be added to rents that can’t be paid on time.

Another comment asked the council to reduce the requirements for paystubs, etc. to prove the hardship.

Motts then asked that language be include for tenants who can’t provide documentation, that they provide written notification to the landlord, instead.

“So, the words that are used, they tend to be specific to align the ordinance with the executive order,” Smith explained. “When you look at the Concord ordinance, they use the word documentation. These words are aligned legally with the words in the executive orders. Notification is different than documentation. It’s not the standard if you have to go to court.”

“Being in line with other cities as a group…is important for us as a city…as a legal defense strategy,” he explained. “And to stay under the umbrella of the state executive order.”

“Other form of objective proof is included in the language,” he continued.

“In relation to the period of time, we do either what Concord did and go with the 90 days or go with the six months,” Smith stated. “I rarely jump in and urge you to do something.”

“What I don’t want to be is in a position that is legally hard to defend,” he said.

Thorpe reiterated his concern from earlier, that the ordinance was too narrowly written and that the language should be more broad to include anyone affected by the COVID-19

“We can pass this as is,” but I’d really like to time to look into the wording to expand the scope,” Smith said. “There has to be a causal relationship in my mind. Can we show that there is a causal relationship in the definition that you’re proposing?

“It is not a presumption. We’ve asked people to stay home,” Thorpe responded.

“Certain people,” Smith interjected.

“We are telling people to stay home,” Thorpe said. “It would just be an urgency ordinance…during the coronavirus/COVID-19 emergency. Right now, we’re limiting it to rent and loss of income.

“Some people are still working. So the connection between loss of income and inability to pay rent..if you’re income is not affected then you should pay your rent,” Smith said.

“Whether you’re essential or non-essential, if you’re the worst tenant in the world, this is not the time to evict someone. It would be contrary to evict someone during the shelter in place order,”

“So, you want no landlord to evict anyone during the coronavirus,” Smith asked.

“Why would we want anyone to move when we’re asking people to shelter in place?” Thorpe asked.

“We are under the shelter of the state order,” Smith responded. “When we say no one can evict anyone during this time, that is no under the shelter of the state order. That is not under our police power. If we’re going to do something like that, we better be sure.”

“If you need to do more work, that’s fine,” Thorpe said. “We don’t want more people in shelters.”

“I just want to look whether or not we can do that,” Smith responded.

“I hear you,” Thorpe concluded.

“Right now evictions are on a stay, there can be no evictions, the courts are closed,” Ogorchock stated. “There’s a stay on foreclosures. Again, talking to Realtors…they’re unable to any evictions, right now. There is a stay on foreclosures at this time.”

“The fact the courts are closed is operational,” Smith pointed out. “When the courts open back up, if we make the change, then we would be under our authority on that.”

“I understand and see where Councilman Thorpe is coming from,” Wilson said. “I just want to make sure people have time to make up their rent.”

“I’m comfortable with either one of them. The 90 days like Concord,” Smith reiterated.

“I just wanted to reiterate what Councilmember Wilson said,” Motts stated. “I think if we’re expecting people to immediately pay back their rent we’re setting them up for failure. We don’t want more homeless.”

“Can we make these changes, tonight?” she asked.

“You can make the changes tonight, but this is an urgency ordinance which requires a 4/5ths vote,” Smith said. “It will go into effect, tonight.”

“I’m just in a position that we don’t go outside of

“A landlord can still file an eviction…yes, it can, Lori, you can shake your head all you want,” Thorpe said. “It can sit in a pile and when the courts open up…their processes are their processes.

“Roll your eyes all you want, Lori,” he added with a laugh.

“This ordinance has to do with during the emergency of the COVID-19,” Motts said. “So, I’m comfortable with that language.”

Smith said he would go back and look at additional language at Thorpe’s request.

Thorpe agreed and made the motion to adopt, with the change to the language to include a 90-day grace period per month of arrears after the expiration or termination of this ordinance, using the language from the Concord ordinance.

Wilson seconded the motion.

Ogorchock, “When Lamar was saying his motion, Smith was striking something out, so can you please read the entire language?”

Smith re-read the proposed language for the ordinance with the requested changes.

The motion passed on a 5-0 vote.

Moratorium On Rent Increases and Fees

The council members then discussed a moratorium on rent increases and fees asking the City Attorney to return with an ordinance for them to vote on at their next meeting

City Manage Ron Bernal explained that the item was in response to a request by Thorpe at the previous council meeting. There was no staff report included with the agenda.

“I’m happy to encourage our city attorney to go back and develop language for an ordinance,” Thorpe said.

Wright shared that a landlord is requiring tenants to pay a $46 fee for using their debit card to pay their rent, even though he won’t allow payment by check. “That’s wrong,” he said.

“I, too got that same email about the $46 fee,” Wilson said. She was in agreement.

“The last thing we want to do is make the situation worse,” Motts stated. “It makes no sense to have all these increases or additional fees. I’m in support for Thomas to look into this.”

“I see this as the exact opposite, in talking with brokers, today,” Ogorchock said. “They’re offering a reduction in rent. I did not see the $46 email. I’m seeing the exact opposite.”

“If there’s something we can do…we should help,” Wright said. “I’m seeing a consensus to bring this back.”

With that the council voted to adjourn the meeting.

ORDINANCE FINAL ADOPTED LANGUAGE

Following is the actual language in the ordinance adopted Tuesday night:

Section 3. Moratorium on Eviction for Nonpayment of Rent during the COVID-19 Emergency.

  1. During the term of this Ordinance, no landlord shall endeavor to evict a residential or commercial tenant for nonpayment of rent, including but not limited to any such action under Civil Code sections 1940 et seq. or 1954.25 et seq., if the tenant provides written documentation or other objectively verifiable proof evidencing the following:
  2. The tenant’s inability to pay rent is was caused by, or arises out of, a substantial decrease in household or business income (including but not limited to the circumstances described in subsections B or C) or substantial out-of-pocket medical expenses; and
  3. The decrease in household income, or out-of-pocket medical expenses, was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, or by any local, state, or federal government response to COVID-19.
  4. Substantial decrease in household income” includes but is not limited to loss of income caused by COVID-19 illness or caring for a household or family member with COVID-19 illness, work closures, layoffs, job loss, a reduction in the number of compensable hours or other economic or employer impacts of COVID-19, including missing work due to a minor child’s school closure, compliance with government health authority orders, or a similarly-caused reason resulting in loss of household income due to COVID-19, that is substantiated with written documentation.
  5. Substantial decrease in business income” includes, but is not limited to, loss of income caused by work closures, reduction in staff reporting to work, reduction in opening hours, or reduction in consumer demand, compliance with government health authority orders, or other similarly caused reason resulting in loss of business income due to COVID-19, substantiated with written documentation or other objectively verifiable proof of same.
  6. A landlord that knows that a tenant cannot pay some or all of the rent temporarily for the reasons set forth above shall not serve a notice pursuant to Civil Code of Procedure section 1161, file or prosecute an unlawful detainer action based on a three-day pay or quit notice, or otherwise seek to evict for nonpayment of rent.
  7. The City encourages tenants to inform landlords in writing of their inability to pay full rent as soon as practicable after they become aware of a substantial decrease in household income or business income or out-of-pocket medical expenses that would prevent them from paying full rent. A landlord knows of a tenant’s inability to pay rent within the meaning of this Ordinance if the tenant, within 14 days after the date that rent is due, notifies the landlord in writing of the tenant’s inability to pay the full rent because a substantial decrease in household or business income or the need to pay out-of-pocket medical expenses was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, or by any local, state, or federal government response to COVID-19, and provides documentation to support the claim. Any medical or financial information provided to the landlord shall be held in confidence, and only used for evaluating the tenant’s claim. For purposes of this Ordinance, “in writing” includes email or text communications to a landlord or the landlord’s representative with whom the tenant has previously corresponded by email or text.
  8. Nothing in this Ordinance relieves the tenant of liability for the unpaid rent, which the landlord may seek after the expiration of this Ordinance, affected residential and affected commercial tenants shall receive a ninety (90) day grace period per month of arrears after expiration or other termination of the term of this Ordinance during which to repay any monies due to a landlord for failure to pay rent or utilities, unless a state law or order is amended or adopted providing for a longer repayment period, in which case the payment period provided by the state law or order shall apply under this Ordinance.
  9. A landlord may not charge or collect a late fee or any other new fees for rent that is delayed for the reasons stated in this Ordinance, nor may a landlord seek rent that is delayed for the reasons stated in this Ordinance through the eviction process.
  10. This Ordinance may be asserted as an affirmative defense in any unlawful detainer action or other action brought by an owner or landlord to recover possession. A tenant may bring a civil suit seeking owner or landlord compliance with any provisions of this Ordinance.
  11. This Ordinance applies to nonpayment eviction notices and unlawful detainer actions based on such notices, served or filed on or after March 16, 2020 and until the expiration of this Ordinance, as set forth in Section 7, below.
  12. Courts shall have the sole discretion to determine in an unlawful detainer action or other eviction action whether the tenant’s written notice and documentation are sufficient to show a “substantial decrease in household” or “substantial out-of-pocket medical expenses.”

Section 4. Moratorium on Judicial Foreclosures during the COVID-19 Emergency.

As provided for in Executive Order N-28-20 and consistent with the other provisions in this Ordinance, the statutory cause of action for judicial foreclosure, Code of Civil Procedure section 725a et seq.; the statutory cause of action for unlawful detainer, Code of Civil Procedure section 1161 et seq.; and any other statutory cause of action that could be used to evict or otherwise eject a residential or commercial tenant or occupant of residential real property after foreclosure is hereby suspended as applied to any tenancy, or residential real property and any occupation thereof, to which a limitation on eviction is imposed pursuant to this Ordinance.

Section 5.     Compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act.

The City Council hereby finds approval of this Ordinance is exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (Public Resources Code §§ 21000et seq., “CEQA,” and 14 Cal. Code Reg. §§ 15000 et seq., “CEQA Guidelines”) under Section 15061(b)(3) of the CEQA Guidelines.

Section 6. Severability.

If any section, subsection, sentence, clause or phrase of this chapter is for any reason held to be invalid or unconstitutional by a decision of any court of competent jurisdiction, such decision shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions of this chapter. The City Council hereby declares that it would have passed the ordinance codified in this chapter, and each and every section, subsection, sentence, clause or phrase not declared invalid or unconstitutional without regard to whether any portion of this chapter would be subsequently declared invalid or unconstitutional.

Section 7. Effective Date and Publication.

This Urgency Ordinance shall become effective immediately upon its adoption by not less than a four-fifths vote of the Antioch City Council pursuant to California Government Code Section 36937 and shall remain in effect until May 31, 2020 or the expiration of the local emergency or the Governor’s proclamation of a state of emergency, whichever is later. Prior to the expiration of fifteen days from the passage thereof, the ordinance or a summary thereof shall be posted or published as may be required by law.

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