Mayor Moreno to work with local mayors and other officials to remove San Luis County from the Southern California Region. 

ATASCADERO — Due to the recent stay-at-home order put into place on Dec. 6 by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Atascadero City Council scheduled a special meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 15, to discuss an emergency grant program to assist small businesses.

The regional stay-at-home order was implemented in regions with less than 15 percent ICU availability and prohibited private gatherings of any size. Also, Newsom announced that all non-essential travel was restricted statewide starting on Dec. 3 until further notice.  

Under the new stay-at-home order, essential businesses such as grocery stores must operate at 20 percent capacity; bars, wineries, salons, and restaurant dining were ordered to shut down; and hotels could only be open for critical infrastructure support. 

Schools could remain open if they received a waiver, and restaurants could continue take-out and delivery services.

The order was to remain in effect for at least three weeks and, after that period, would be lifted when a region’s projected ICU capacity met or exceeded 15 percent. This is to be assessed weekly after the initial three-week period.

The state released a map of five regions and their current ICU capacity and projected dates when regions would fall below the 15 percent threshold. San Luis Obispo County, for the first time, was placed in the “Southern California Region,” which included:

• Southern California: Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura

At Tuesday’s meeting, Atascadero Community Development Director Phil Dunsmore explained that he and his team had spoken directly with many local small businesses, and some financial assistance from the City could help.

“This shut down will result in a devastating effect on many of the small businesses … and while this is not a lot of money, it could be just enough to help them get by,” he said.

The proposal to the City Council was for the City to offer “micro-grants” to Atascadero businesses. Grant amounts would be granted in full up to $5,000 and can be used for various needs to assist small business through these critical months.

After discussing the application process, determining qualifications, and accountability, the Atascadero City Council chose to adopt a resolution. In turn, authorizing the City Manager to allocate up to $250,000 from the General Fund toward an emergency grant program to assist small businesses that have demonstrated significant financial impacts due to emergency business closures resulting from COVID-19 in a 5-0 vote.

The application period will open on Dec. 17 and remain open until noon on January 4, 2021.

The Council also approved for the City to work in partnership with the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce by offering residents or businesses the option to donate to the Chamber’s nonprofit 501(c)(3) to allow more funds to be available for additional grants. Josh Cross, Interim CEO of the Chamber, stated that a donation link could be live as soon as Thursday, Dec. 17.

One public comment addressed this agenda item from a resident named “Gina” who called in to thank the Council for scheduling the meeting and addressing small businesses’ financial needs.

The second item on the agenda was a COVID-19 update by Mayor Heather Moreno and City Manager Rachelle Rickard. The overall discussion touched on how the City is handling complaints received. Rickard stated that Atascadero Business Code Enforcement Officer John Jones visits the location of the complaint and educates the business owner on how to operate safely. They have not found anyone to be doing anything that would fall into the “egregious” category. 

The decision was also made that Mayor Moreno would work with all local mayors and other officials to sign a letter to remove San Luis Obispo County from the Southern California Region. 

There was one public comment from a local business owner and resident in support of the Council’s action to request removal from the Southern California Region regarding COVID-19 health guidelines.

The City Council’s next meeting is scheduled for January 2021.   

Getting through this together, Atascadero