Kern County Supervisors revived the Kern Recovers program and set money aside to help agricultural workers exposed to COVID-19 at a meeting on Tuesday.
In two 4-0 votes with Supervisor Leticia Perez absent, supervisors dedicated $6 million in the fight against various coronavirus impacts. However, $5 million came from the city of Bakersfield, which received a CARES Act allocation from the state earlier this year.
The $5 million will be spent on a revived Kern Recovers small business and nonprofit forgivable loan program that had been shuttered after Kern’s own allocation was spent. So far, $30 million used in the program has benefited 937 local businesses, with loans averaging around $30,000.
Bakersfield’s contribution will allow an additional $3 million to be allocated to small businesses, with $2 million going to local nonprofits.
“We are keenly interested in supporting our local businesses and our local nonprofits and we feel fortunate to have CARES funding through a direct allocation through the state,” Bakersfield City Manager Christian Clegg said during the meeting. “(The city) wanted to thank the staff at the county for demonstrating a remarkable partnership.”
Also at the meeting, supervisors committed $1 million to Housing for the Harvest, a state program that houses agricultural workers in hotel rooms if they have contracted COVID-19 or been exposed to someone who is sick with the virus. The state will pay to house the participants in local hotel rooms for 14 days, while Kern County has contracted with Community Action Partnership of Kern to provide three meals a day, case management and $500 in financial assistance to impacted individuals.
The funds are expected to aid 570 people. Officials hope their effort will help slow the spread of COVID-19 among the county’s Latino population, which has seen elevated levels of exposure for many months.
“This is targeting the most vulnerable population in our community and, really, the area that has been the source for a lot of the positive tests, at least historically,” said Chief Operations Officer Jim Zervis. “This is an opportunity to try to effect that with a program in concert with the state.”