By Councilwoman Thelda Williams

Over the last few weeks, COVID-19 has changed everything about our daily lives and the rapid changes and uncertainty can make everyday tasks seem difficult to navigate.

Knowing where to go for assistance and information is key.

The city of Phoenix has launched a new resource website, phoenix.gov/resources. This site is constantly updated with new information and resources that can be helpful for job seekers, businesses, non-profits, locating senior and student meals, emergency rent, utility or eviction assistance, and more. The city of Phoenix is working hard to leverage resources and maximize assistance for residents. I encourage you to check the website often for the latest updates.

Another city resource, phoenix.gov/newsroom, is a great way to stay up-to-date on how the city is responding to COVID-19. While essential city services such as 911, police, fire, water, wastewater, solid waste and recycling are fully operational, you will find updates on how other city services are impacted. There is an extensive list of how city departments have transitioned or modified operations to appropriately social distance or make services available online.

For those who are Head Start program participants, this important education service for our residents hasn’t diminished during the pandemic. The Head Start program provides comprehensive education, health, nutrition and family services to poverty-level children and families. The good news is that local grantees who operate Head Start in Phoenix receive federal funding and that funding will continue to support Head Start students and their families through this school year. That allows staff to readjust operations and, instead of working with students on site, staff are maintaining daily contact with families remotely. Staff is also working expeditiously to acquire tablets for students so learning can continue remotely.

In addition to these resources, knowing how the city will manage its budget is helpful.

The speed of this current economic downturn caused by COVID-19 is moving at a rapid and unprecedented pace. We have gone from just weeks ago having a budget surplus projected at $28 million, to today solving a preliminary budget gap of $26 million, and that’s after already accounting for spending reductions and a hiring freeze that was implemented at the city on March 19.

Phoenix City Charter requires a balanced budget each year. The following details the schedule for city council presentations on the proposed City Manager’s Trial Budget. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there is a revised budget adoption schedule.

On April 13, the City Manager presented the 2020-21 Revised Trial Budget, focusing on the city’s proposed response efforts to the current economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 public health crisis. The city manager’s plan outlines a balanced budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year by taking responsible actions that do not cut city services or jobs.

The presentation also included an action plan for future options the city council can evaluate after the budget year begins on July 1. This is a preparation, not an action.

Based on council and community feedback, a proposed budget will be presented for review on May 5 with a council action scheduled on May 19.

Community input is a valuable part of the budget process, unfortunately due to COVID- 19 restrictions on public gatherings, all customary community budget hearings have been cancelled.

Please visit phoenix.gov/budget to view the timeline and proposed. Residents may submit comments by completing a Budget Feedback Form or by calling the Budget and Research Department at 602-262-4800.

If you have any questions or comments, contact my office at council.district.1@phoenix.gov or call 602-262-7444.

Councilwoman Thelda Williams serves as the District 1 representative which encompasses northwest Phoenix from Northern Avenue to New River Road; and the Interstate 17 to 67th Avenue.