If all goes as planned, Kern County libraries currently closed to the public could be converted into personal protective equipment distribution centers for local businesses.

Under a new proposal that's scheduled to be taken up by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, Kern County could distribute $4.5 million worth of PPE to local small businesses using libraries and other select locations throughout the county.

The proposal is part of Kern Recovers, a supervisors initiative meant to support local businesses that have been devastated by the economic downturn caused by coronavirus.

“Kern County is acting in an extraordinary way to support our small business owners,” a letter signed by Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop read. “The Kern Recovers: PPE Support Program would bring needed support to continue this reopening effort in a tangible and practical way.”

The plan calls for the county to bulk purchase PPE and potentially sanitation supplies to distribute to a target of 5,000 local businesses. Only businesses physically located within Kern County that have less than 200 employees would be eligible for the program.

The county would use federal funds provided through the CARES Act to pay for the program. Officials estimate $500,000 will be needed to pay for staff costs, advertising and other supplies, bringing the total cost of the program to $5 million.

In addition to the PPE proposal, Supervisors will consider a plan to use CARES Act funds to provide $2 million worth of food to sensitive groups who might be in danger of contracting COVID-19 while shopping.

The Board would use Community Action Partnership of Kern to deliver food boxes to vulnerable citizens. The beneficiaries of the program include those 65 and older as well as individuals with serious health conditions.

The program is planned to run from Tuesday through the end of the year.

Supervisors will take up both issues at their 9 a.m. meeting.

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