Fresno City Council COVID panel deciding where to spend CARES Act funds

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Fresno City Council COVID committee focused on vulnerable communities as it looked to spend the next round of federal CARES Act funding.

$10.2 million would be divided into three areas.

Food insecurity has intensified during the pandemic.

The city of Fresno would like to set aside $4.4 million on food assistance.

$2 million would help non-profit groups like Neighborhood Industries expand services. It has been delivering food to seniors and people in rural areas unable to get to food distribution sites.

Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria said, "Over the last four months, we have seen a tremendous increase in how long the lines of food distribution have been."

$2.3 million would assist Fresno Unified's 'grab and go' meal distributions but not just for students. Adult family members would also be able to pick up meals at 47 school sites through December.

The committee requested $3.8 million to step up the city's Testing, Tracing and Quarantine effort.

$1 million would go to help essential workers in the ag industry get tested.

Fresno City Council President Miguel Arias explained, "Whether it's a packing house or out in the field as farmworkers. They don't have any insurance and what we heard from them is, we don't want to be tested because if they need medical services, they don't have money to pay for them."

The plan called for the Bautista Medical Group to offer free testing and medical services to farmworkers and set up mobile testing sites.

Soria said, "The flexibility is going to be key in getting to those folks that are likelier to get COVID or that are at higher risk."

$2.7 million would also go to a city-county partnership to train 300 contact tracers. It's part of an outreach program to Black, immigrant, and refugee communities through the EOC and Building Healthy Communities.

Small Business Relief was the third area of focus.

$1 million would be available for businesses to apply for $5,000-10,000 grants to stay afloat if they haven't received federal or county relief. The Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation and Fresno County Economic Development Department would oversee the effort.

Arias said, "When we launched the small business relief program, we thought it was going to be a temporary shutdown for 30 days. For some businesses, it has been a second wave of shutdowns."

A special council meeting will be held on Monday to discuss and finalize plans for the CARES Act funding. The City of Fresno has spent $40 million of the $92 million CARES Act federal dollars it was allocated.
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