FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) — Fresno City Councilmember Mike Karbassi held a press conference outside of City Hall on Monday to address the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his speech, Karbassi claimed that promises from other councilmembers were broken and asked Mayor Lee Brand to have a phased approach to reopen the local economy by May 1.
Karbassi specifically addressed the partnership with the city and the Fresno Economic Development for the Small Business Relief Fund that granted loan-to-grants to small businesses struggling during the pandemic.
“I don’t like local government not delivering on promises,” said Karbassi. “But it looks like some of my colleagues just don’t feel the same way.”
Karbassi claimed other councilmembers pushed for the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission to be involved and promises that the organization would match the $750,000 in funds that the city put forward. He said the deal fell through.
“An outside organization would match it and double it. That never happened. So they are willing to put your lives at risk, violate shelter in place, and have a press conference to tout their achievements from my bill, but no one is talking about instead of helping the 116 businesses, it could have been 232,” said Karbassi.
Fresno EOC, CEO Emilia Reyes said there was talk of giving some federal funding, but nothing was in writing.
“We have not received the funding so we cannot commit to that quite yet,” said Reyes.
Later, Karbassi addressed Councilmember Esmerelda Soria’s plan to give over $2 million to local renters and businesses that need help.
Karbassi alleged that if the city spends too much from the money the city was granted from the Federal CARES Act, Fresno will take a big hit.
“What I am worried about most are layoffs,” said Karbassi. “If we face layoffs in the city of Fresno that is what is going to hurt most for residents. When you call 911, it is going to take longer to talk to someone. It takes longer for someone to get out there. We will have crews that are not fully staffed, which not only hurts the public, it endangers out firefighters.”
According to the city’s spokesperson there have not been any talks of layoffs.
Soria called Karbassi’s comments about her proposal completely untrue and said the funding can only be used for COVID-19 relief.
“It is not there for our budget expenses,” said Soria. “It is there to help with any outstanding covid expenses and that is what the $1.5 million would do of the $92 million that we were afforded. ”
Karbassi is a member of the Mayor’s Economic Recovery Committee. Its first meeting was Monday at 2 p.m. He said he planned to bring in a request to Mayor Lee Brand to have a phased-in approach by May 1 so that non-essential businesses that meet social distancing guidelines could open by May 7.