Taxes Deferred, Social Services Available, as Response to COVID-19 Takes Hold

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The March 16, 2020 San Francisco Department of Public Health order for people to shelter in place until April 7 triggered a fundamental change in life on the Southside. Individuals were told not to leave their homes except for “essential” functions, including to purchase groceries, gasoline and medical services. People are allowed outside to exercise, so long as they maintain a “social distance” of six feet. 

The communal lockdown prompted San Francisco’s thin social services network to respond with a variety of services.  The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank’s “Find Food” tool, which is updated hourly, according to Katie Mann McKnight, the Bank’s community engagement director, can be used to find open pantries, including the Mission YMCA at 4080 Mission Street, Iglesia Presbiteriana de la Mision at 3261 23rd Street, and Grace Fellowship Community Church at 3265 16th Street. The Food Bank’s home-delivered grocery program is also available. 

“Some of our partner agencies that serve as distribution centers have closed,” said McKnight. “We may be opening up more pop-up style distribution points and will likely need volunteers to help. We have put new cleaning procedures in place for our warehouse and deliveries. We are requiring all volunteers and staff to wash their hands, wear gloves, and sanitize work areas. We have reduced the number of people on a shift to pack food from between 50 and 70 to 20. We are also working outside, as long as the weather remains cooperative.” 

According to McKnight there’s plenty of food available. “We assume the requests and desires are going to grow. We have a steady supply chain in place and will be able to meet the need,” said McKnight. 

“Both senior and community pantries will be consolidated into one, with all food being pre-bagged for community members to pick up from the theater’s porch exit,” said Edward Hatter, Potrero Hill Neighborhood House executive director. The Nabe has suspended its in-house evening hot meal for youth and senior meal programs.

On March 17, Mayor London Breed placed a moratorium on eviction of small and medium-sized businesses who have lost income due to the coronavirus. The moratorium applies to San Francisco businesses with less than $25 million in annual gross receipts. It prohibits evictions for 30 days, until April 17. The Mayor could extend the moratorium another 30 days. 

On March 16, Mayor Breed announced the Workers and Families First program will provide an additional five days of sick leave to private sector workers impacted by the pandemic, supported by $10 million in taxpayer monies. All enterprises are eligible, with up to 20 percent of the funds reserved for entities with 50 or fewer employees. The Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) and the Human Services Agency are jointly administering this program. 

Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loans, available through the U.S. Small Business Administration, offer $2 million in assistance. Companies can also apply for up to $10,000 to cover employee salaries and rent through OEWD’s COV-19 Small Business Resiliency Fund. 

“There is only $1 million in the resiliency fund now, but businesses should still apply. We believe more money will become available,” said Jorge Rivas, deputy director of neighborhood economic development for OEWD.

The San Francisco Treasurer and Tax Collector is deferring business taxes and license fees for small businesses. Quarterly estimated tax payments of the gross receipts tax, payroll expense tax, commercial rents tax, and homelessness gross receipts tax that’d be due on April 30 will be waived for taxpayers or groups with combined 2019 gross receipts of $10,000,000 or less. Quarterly estimated taxes must be paid with annual payments for tax year 2020 by March 1, 2021. The due date for license fees, normally March 31, has been extended to June 30, 2020.

“Right now, we are focused (on) supporting businesses with their immediate needs and providing financial relief to cover rent and employees’ expenses,” said Rivas. He encouraged large businesses that have the capacity to make donations to small businesses. “This includes waiving commission for the use of apps that might help small businesses, like order and delivery platforms,” said Rivas. “We encourage companies to allow employees to use sick time first and be flexible,” said Rivas. 

“I’ve heard about the decline in foot traffic and loss of revenue for small businesses,” District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton. “The City is looking into putting resources aside, delaying taxes, and providing low-interest loans. Some of my team is on a staggered schedule, but residents should not see any effects from that.” 

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will hold public meetings via teleconferencing. 

Hatter said the Nabe has closed its after-school and Experiment in Diversity programs, and cancelled all group meetings, events, and activities until April 1 at the earliest.  “We are holding off on announcing a full shutdown of the facility because of the costs associated, (which include) payment and deposit reimbursement. Most of our private events are scheduled for April. We are hoping many reschedule instead cancel,” said Hatter.

The organization will pay staff during the shutdown and receive reimbursement from the City.  “During the downtime of these closures, the Nabe’s youth program administrative staff will be planning and developing curriculum and activities for our summer programs. Our case manager, Larenda Brooks, will continue her daily activities for the Potrero TAY program, distributing emergency food boxes and referrals. We will have a daytime janitorial professional disinfecting all touchable surfaces,” said Hatter. 

The YMCA of San Francisco is closed throughout the City until April 7. 

The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) is providing remote or virtual options for families to register for the school year 2020-21 during May Placement, also known as round 2. The May Placement Application is at  Families that didn’t apply by the January 17 should do so by April 10. Those that submitted in the March Placement Period and want to change their school assignments should participate in the May Placement Period.

California College of the Arts (CCA) is offering remote instruction through May 8. CCA’s residence halls will stay open for students who need campus housing. Tours, admissions events, public events, and exhibitions have been postponed indefinitely. 

Julie Christensen, Green Benefit District, executive director, said most day-to-day activities, like sidewalk cleaning and park maintenance, are on a restricted schedule to protect workers.  “The GBD monthly newsletter will continue to be posted at the end of each month. Group activities like board and project meetings will be conducted via video conference. Members of the public who wish to participate will find information on how to do so in the GBD calendar. Volunteer work parties that normally occur each spring will be postponed. GBD-maintained parks and public spaces will remain open. We advise neighbors to use caution when coming into contact with surfaces in public places,” said Christensen.

The Starr King Open Space (SKOS) remains open.  “We only ask that people follow the appropriate guidelines for social distancing. Also, because the space is entirely maintained by volunteers, we request that people pick up after themselves,” said Matt Nessier, SKOS board president. The Spring Wildflower Mimosa Walks have been canceled. 

Individuals can participate virtually in a SKOS Wildflower Walk project with the free app iNaturalist. “Once downloaded, all you do is search for Starr King Open Space under “Projects” and join. People then use the images and geo-location to hunt for each flower on their own. If people want to contribute they can become Observers and add what they find,” said Nessier. 

Following the March 13 order by San Francisco Health Office Dr. Tomas Aragon requiring the closure of bars and nightclubs catering to 100 people or more, some restaurants, such as School Night, shutdown.  Others, like STEM Kitchen & Garden, are offering take-out during more limited hours. They’re also taking additional steps to ensure cleanliness, by removing all self-service and communal condiments and other items, sanitizing high-touch surfaces frequently and rigorously, and enforcing personal hygiene and health reporting policies for staff 

Goat Hill Pizza, which has locations in Potrero Hill, South-of-Market, and West Portal is allowing customers to order food on-line and over the phone for take-out and delivery. Longbridge Pizza Co., in Dogpatch is open during normal hours for take-out. 

Recchiuti Confections, with locations in Dogpatch and the Ferry Building has paused service until April 8. The company’s online store is still open, but orders won’t be shipped until the City’s shelter-in-place ordinance has been lifted. 

“Recchiuti’s products are preservative-free, freshly made, and have a very short shelf-life,”said  Cara Loffredo, e-commerce and marketing manager at Recchiuti Confections. “We hold very high standards in quality. We will not be able to sell many of the confections that were freshly made before the ordinance to customers.” Loffredo said clients can support the company through online orders and purchasing gift cards.  

“My entire industry has been wiped out. People are trying to reschedule events for the later in the year. The future is uncertain,” said Sarah Davis, an event planner in Mission Bay, who has been working from home.  

“Some of my daughter’s teachers provided her with online lessons in Google Classroom,” said Davis, whose daughter Olivia is a freshman at Galileo High School. “Others don’t use it. It’s unclear what she will be doing for the next few weeks.”  

Davis said SFUSD needs volunteers to distribute free food to families at school sites throughout the City.

Susan Eslick, a graphic designer, said her Dogpatch clients who offer design and architectural services have asked employees to work from home. “This has required company computers being sent to the employees’ homes, and new sets of company protocols and procedures be put in place. For younger employees, working from home presents its own set of challenges, working with roommates and distractions, managing personal fears and uncertainties,” said Eslick.  “Everyone is scared and confused. I think our district is facing the same challenges and concerns as the entire city and the country at large.  We are in uncharted waters. We are in the middle of history in the making.”