SAN JOSÉ, Calif. (KRON) –– Over the course of the last year, COVID-19 severely ravaged many communities, some hit harder than others.
In Santa Clara County, East San José has been among the hardest hit communities by the pandemic and last week city leaders announced plans to help struggling East San José small businesses recover.
“For the last year and a half East San Jose has been struggling not just economically but physically for a lot of us being impacted by COVID-19,” said Rolando Bonilla, Chair of the city’s Planning Commission.
Recently, small business leaders partnered with councilmember Magdalena Carrasco’s office to raise $10 million to help East San José businesses stay afloat as the economy continues to recover.
But some leaders say the plans are nothing but lip service.
Bonilla, who is a COVID-19 survivor, tells KRON4 News that residents living and working in East San José have been virtually ignored in the city’s economic recovery process.
“I made it a point when I came out of the hospital to immediately hit the ground running, even with oxygen masks on to raise funds and put money directly into people’s pockets,” said Bonilla.
“And why? Because it wasn’t happening and someone had to step up and do that.”
Bonilla says the city could have joined his efforts months ago when he launched the East San José COVID Relief Fund to give out money to East San Jose small business owners, a fund that Bonilla kick started with his own money.
And now Bonilla is requesting the Mayor and City Council to purchase vacant buildings along the Alum Rock corridor in an aim to inject immediate economic investment in East San José.
“No amount of lip service is going to change the fact that we were ignored for a year and a half, no amount of lip service is going to change that in January, February, March, April, May, June, I was out there with the community raising funds to keep these businesses open,” said Bonilla.
“And city hall left us to fend for ourselves.”
The proposal to buy the vacant buildings is part of a larger economic plan spearheaded by Bonilla for East San José.
In March, Bonilla introduced a $6.5 million economic plan to support the region’s small business and nonprofit community.
To date, the East San José COVID Relief Fund has raised over $40,000 in grants to East San José small businesses and nonprofits.
Bonilla along with Alum Rock Village Action Committee and District 5 United is asking the city to allocate the purchases of the vacant buildings as part of the current budget process.
“So today what I am asking for is the city to purchase these buildings to give our community the cash injections, the boost that we need to get out of this crisis better off than how we started,” said Bonilla.
KRON4 reached out to Mayor Sam Liccardo’s office for comment but has yet to hear back.