One of the things I’m proud of is the Family Independence Initiative UpTogether program, under the housing security pillar. As part of the city’s housing assistance program, instead of giving families living in poverty financial support and telling them what to do with the money, we’re letting them decide how to use it. With the right support and fewer strings, people do better pulling themselves out of poverty than when we say, “We know better than you do.” We’re going to help 1,000 families using that model. Each participant will receive direct, unrestricted payments totaling about $6,000 over two years. Participants have proven that they will use these funds exactly the way they need to use them to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table, and their kids in a stable and safe environment.
Another focus of the housing security pillar is domestic violence prevention. We have a strong focus on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in San Antonio. Reducing domestic violence is an essential way to reduce trauma in children’s lives. It’s that upstream focus. The plan will put an additional $3.3 million into an already improved domestic violence prevention strategy that we had funded with $16 million over the past fiscal year.
As part of our workforce development pillar, we’re going to pay for people to go back to school for job training, and we created a $400 a week stipend so they don’t have to maintain a job during their intense training course. In the end, they’ll have better chances of getting a well-paying job and being able to pay for groceries, rent and so on.
Our small business pillar includes grants of $10,000 to $75,000. Grant recipients will also receive support to increase their knowledge of financial practices that promote business resiliency. One goal is for half of grant recipients to rehire some or all employees they furloughed by the end of the year. The application process gives priority points to businesses in areas of the city that are struggling; generally, census tracts with a high percentage of poverty, high percentage of persons of color and formerly red-lined areas.
And finally, we’re addressing the digital divide, in part because of all the focus on virtual learning during the pandemic. We wanted to make sure that students had not just the laptops or tablets to be able to do the work but also that they had access to the internet. In the spring, our school systems were giving out thousands of hotspots. But it wasn’t a long-term solution. So we’ve committed to building the tech infrastructure to allow students to access internet at no cost in 50 neighborhoods in city.