By Mayor Eric Garcetti
Two years ago this month, to slow the spread of the coronavirus and save lives, I issued an emergency order.
On March 15, 2020, we became one of the first cities in America to close indoor dining, bars, gyms and other places where people gather. We couldn’t have imagined what was to come: All the uncertainty. All the loved ones we lost.
Fortunately, the picture looks very different today. Our COVID case and hospitalization numbers continue to go down and we recently rolled back indoor masking restrictions for businesses that require proof of vaccination to enter.
Still, many people continue to suffer from the economic impacts of the pandemic and struggle to make ends meet — and the city is here to help.
This month, hundreds of thousands of families and businesses across Los Angeles can breathe a sigh of relief because the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has administered $285 million in utility debt relief for their power and water bills.
These are bills that have stacked up since March 2020, when the DWP put a utility moratorium in place so that Angelenos unable to pay their bills for the time being could keep their water and power turned on.
Now, thanks to federal American Rescue Plan funds, as well as program support from the state, that debt was automatically cleared for more than 280,000 residential and commercial customers.
We’ve also continued our push to move folks into housing. This year’s justice budget invests nearly $1 billion for housing and homelessness. And, since COVID first hit Los Angeles, we’ve brought 13,950 people across the city off the street.
And, to ensure that no one ended up on the street because they were unable to pay their rent, the city issued a moratorium on residential and commercial evictions at the start of the pandemic that remains in place.
We also led the largest rental assistance program in the nation in 2020 — providing nearly $100 million in discretionary funds to serve more than 49,000 households in under six months.
To meet the demand for support, we secured federal and state funding to help more households. Altogether, we’ve distributed $835 million to assist over 100,000 households in Los Angeles who were impacted by COVID and falling behind on their rent.
Applications for rental assistance are being accepted through March 31. Residents of the city of Los Angeles can apply at housingiskey.com.
Many of our businesses also continue to struggle to stay afloat — and we know their success is key to our economic recovery.
To help small business owners, the city has distributed over $56 million in grants and loans through our microloan program, L.A. Recovery Fund, and the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles.
And we recently used American Rescue Plan funds to launch the Comeback Checks grants program — providing 5,000 small businesses with a $5,000 grant to use for employee payroll and benefits, rent, utilities, insurance and more.
It’s hard to believe that two years have passed since our lives changed so suddenly and completely. Today, we are finally stepping into that light at the end of the tunnel — and we’re making sure that no one gets left behind.
From the start of this crisis, I’ve always said that no one should bet against Los Angeles. We’ve confronted big challenges before, and we’ve always met them. We’ve always emerged stronger, safer, and more hopeful. And that’s just what we’re doing now.
Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Community Report” column runs monthly in The Wave.