The Kern County Board of Supervisors has given its stamp of approval to a $25 million coronavirus relief fund meant for small businesses that have encountered difficulties receiving federal loans.
During Tuesday’s meeting, supervisors unanimously approved a measure that allows the County Administrative Office to enter into agreements with local lenders in an effort to get the program off the ground by May 26.
“We wanted to do this as thoughtfully as possible. We wanted to do this so that it provided maximum value to the folks that would be receiving it and we wanted to make sure it was done as quickly as possible,” Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop said during the meeting. “I think we’re probably moving quicker than any county I can think of our size.”
The Kern Small Business Relief Program will provide $25 million in forgivable loans to local small businesses like restaurants, gyms and salons that have potentially been overlooked by the federal Payment Protection Program loans made possible through the federal CARES Act.
While similar to federal loans, the county’s program will only be available to local small businesses with fewer than 50 employees and under $5 million in annual revenue.
“We wanted to really target those local small businesses that were truly small,” Kern Chief Operating Officer James Zervis told supervisors Tuesday. “We’re not looking for big corporate franchises.”
Four local financial institutions — Valley Republic Bank, Mission Bank, Valley Strong Credit Union and AltaOne Federal Credit Union — helped develop the program and will be in charge of processing applications.
Interested businesses don’t need to be customers of the banks in order to apply for the loans, nor will they be required to become customers.
Supervisors expressed enthusiasm for the program, which they pitched as an important resource to struggling businesses impacted by the novel coronavirus.
“I heartily support this program,” Supervisor Mike Maggard said. “It’s vital to whether or not businesses in our community are going to survive, and that means jobs in our community are going to survive.”