San Juan Capistrano will spend $8.6 million received from the American Rescue Plan Act on long-term projects, including supportive housing and improving roadways.

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The City Council voted 4-1 last month to approve several staff recommendations on how the city could spend money from the act that was signed into law by President Joe Biden in March to help cities and states recover financially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Money from the $1.9 trillion stimulus package was allocated throughout the United States.

About $7 million is planned to be spent on improving San Juan Capistrano’s roads. Currently, the overall condition of the city’s roadways is “fair,” with an index rating that is the lowest in South Orange County, and one of lowest in Orange County, according to a city staff report

The annual city funds for road infrastructure is $2 million, which is not enough for the current roadways improvement plan, according to the staff report. Along with appropriating uses for the American Rescue Plan Act money at the meeting, the City Council also approved a staff recommendation to use $2 million from the city’s general fund reserves toward San Juan Capistrano’s streets improvement program.

Mayor John Taylor, who voted with the majority, said in an interview that he wants to put the act’s money into “long overdue infrastructure.” 

Mayor Pro-Tem Derek Reeve voted against the spending plan, saying “I am concerned about utilizing reserved funds,” explaining that reserved city funds added on to the American Rescue Plan Act money should only be used for emergencies. 

Another $1.5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act will be used to advance the supportive housing and City Hall project. This plan, which has been in the works since 2016, calls for rebuilding City Hall while also adding affordable housing on the same plot, according to the city staff report.

The remaining $100,000 from the act will be allocated toward the city’s ongoing COVID-19 response. This will help fund safety measures, such as masks and sanitary equipment, as well as present and future use to help aid residents during the pandemic. 

The city received half of its share or $4.3 million of the American Rescue Plan Act money in July and staff expects to receive the second installment in July 2022, according to the staff report.

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