The Kern County Board of Supervisors used Tuesday’s board meeting to take on a number of unaddressed needs related to the coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19 has impacted nearly all aspects of daily life and although millions of dollars have already been distributed to help fight the disease, the county has identified multiple outlets that are also in need of funds.
“There’s nothing more apparent than we must be nimble and be able to react quickly to ever-changing situations,” Chief Human Resources Officer Devin Brown said during the afternoon meeting.
First and foremost, supervisors approved a plan to accommodate employees with children who now must distance learn for the beginning of the school year. The plan, which will cost an estimated $350,000, gives eligible employees the ability to work from home and provides a stipend for those employees who are not able to do so.
Certain employees will be able to receive a $75 monthly technology stipend to facilitate their duties from a home office, while employees who need to seek childcare will be given up to $500 in reimbursements per month until the end of the year to do so.
“It’s something that we can do that, obviously, is going to have expense associated with it, but I think it’s worth it,” Supervisor Zack Scrivner said during the meeting.
Carrying a higher price tag, supervisors approved $1 million in economic support grants for local nonprofits that have been overlooked by the recent $30 million Kern Recovers forgivable loan program for small businesses.
“There are certainly some parts of our nonprofit community that play an important role in our economy, but for a variety of reasons didn’t fit into the model for either the federal (Paycheck Protection Program) or the Kern Recovers small business relief program,” said Chief Operations Officer James Zervis, adding nonprofits that rely on volunteers or don’t have the banking relationships or professional staff needed to handle the reporting could have been overlooked.
A lengthy discussion over whether nonprofits that lobby for political gain or provide support to politicians could receive funds ensued, splitting the supervisors.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to use the government’s money, the people’s money, to fund organizations that are politically active and advocate a specific cause,” said Supervisor Mike Maggard.
After receiving assurances that the County Administrative Office would vet applications to approve only those that primarily provide a concrete benefit to Kern County residents, supervisors voted in favor of the motion.
Included in the the motion was a $600,000 expansion of a program intended to bring intensive care unit nurses from outside the area to Kern to handle a surge in COVID-19 patients in local hospitals. The expansion allows Good Samaritan Hospital to be a part of the program, adding two additional ICU beds to its capacity.
Last but not least, supervisors allocated up to $475,000 to purchase masks for the county’s neediest residents. The county will pay Community Action Partnership of Kern $25,000 to distribute the personal protective equipment at food banks and stores catering to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
“It really demonstrates our commitment to working with the finest in this community to deliver results that the taxpayer really demands,” Supervisor Leticia Perez said of the project. “I just so appreciate it.”