The Kern County Board of Supervisors will discuss plans to spend around $157.1 million in federal aid at its Tuesday meeting.
The county received the funds as part of the over-$2 trillion U.S. Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act, designed to mitigate financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic across the country. The legislation, also known as the CARES Act, provides funding for a vast swath of Americans, including municipalities with populations over 500,000.
The county intends to spend the funds on a variety of coronavirus relief efforts, including $35 in small business support and $4 million toward food insecurity and the homeless.
“It’s good news,” County Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop said. “This whole response is incredibly expensive on many levels. So it’s good to know that we’re not having to draw down deep into our county reserves that we have set aside for disasters.”
While the funds cannot be used to shore up the county’s budget in the wake of declining revenue, a variety of coronavirus expenses will be addressed.
In an initial outline of spending priorities, the county said $63 million would be dedicated to general coronavirus costs, from the Kern's emergency operations center to the purchasing of personal protective equipment or even the enforcement of stay-at-home orders.
The county plans to use $25 million to operate an alternative medical care site, located at the Kern County fairgrounds, for six months. The site will be able to hold 250 patients at a time, and will be used if local medical facilities become overwhelmed with coronavirus patients.
Alsop acknowledged funding priorities could change over time to adapt to evolving county needs and necessities.
The funding will allow for additional aid dedicated to small businesses, which have floundered under mandatory closures levied by the state. The county could provide $25 million in direct support to local small businesses, plus $10 million in a reopening support program.
Cities within Kern County are also slated to receive reimbursements from a $20 million reserve coming from the aid.
A total of $2 million is currently dedicated to the homeless, with an additional $2 million allocated to food insecurity needs.
The county has held back $10 million to address future needs related to coronavirus, according to the spending outline provided as part of the meeting's agenda.
Supervisors must authorize the budget adjustments related to the aid at Tuesday's meeting.
The issue will be discussed during the 2 p.m. session. The meeting is not open to the public, but can be streamed on YouTube or KGOVTV.