Fresno leaders hope to protect and support the city’s most vulnerable residents during the coronavirus pandemic with a $10.2 million spending plan unveiled Friday morning.
“What I have seen in the past few months is food lines getting longer.” — Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria
The funding is from the federal CARES Act. It addresses food insecurity, the spread of the virus among Black and immigrant families, and small businesses harmed by the pandemic.
“Our goal is to meet the current needs we see in the community,” said Fresno City Council President Miguel Arias during a Zoom news conference.
Arias said the spending plan has the full support of Fresno Mayor Lee Brand and would be voted on at a special city council meeting Monday.
Once the plan is approved, the city will only have a “few million” left from the Cares Act to tackle the coronavirus, Arias said.
However, that figure doesn’t include the $38 million the city has set aside to make up for anticipated general fund revenue shortfalls.
Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans in Congress have gone home for their summer break without agreeing on another round of funding to shore up the economy and contain the coronavirus.
$4.4 Million for Food Assistance
Food relief is designated for $4.4 million, half of which will go to Fresno Unified School District.
“What I have seen the past few months is food lines getting longer,” said city councilmember Esmeralda Soria.
Arias said that meals distributed by the school district are going to adults, including homeless people, as well as students.
The new round of funding will result in more food reaching people through the end of the year, he said.
Funding also would enable the home delivery of groceries to residents who are under quarantine or don’t want to venture out in public because of COVID-19, Soria said.
The other groups involved in the food relief effort are Neighborhood Industries, The Fresno Center, Reading & Beyond, Every Neighborhood Partnership, and Education & Leadership Foundation.
City councilmember Luis Chavez said that the $3.8 million earmarked for COVID-19 testing, tracing, and quarantine support will be targeted at “those essential workers who can’t Zoom into work or afford to miss work.”
Many of them, he said, “work in packing houses or in the fields but live in the city” and don’t have medical insurance.
It will be critical for public health and the efficient use of funds that the effort utilize up-to-date information identifying coronavirus clusters in neighborhoods and outbreaks at businesses, he said.
Building Healthy Communities and the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission will receive $2.8 million. And, Bautista Medical Group is designated for $1 million to serve uninsured residents.
Saving Our Small Businesses
Plans call for awarding $2 million to small and micro businesses that didn’t receive federal aid or county financial support.
The grants will be $5,000 or $10,000, and there will be a multi-lingual effort to reach businesses.
In April, City Hall awarded forgivable zero-interest loans of $5,000 and $10,000 to 116 businesses impacted by COVID-19.