Fresno County Board of Supervisors working to help families with pandemic relief funds

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Fresno County Board of Supervisors says they're working to help families who truly need it as they face criticism that they aren't spending federal pandemic relief funds fast enough.

The move comes after a state assemblyman showed up to a board meeting again with more criticism for supervisors.

But in an awkward moment -- he was late to the meeting -- and told to wait to make his comment.

State Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula stood up at the podium Tuesday and told the Board of Supervisors, "I would like to submit my public comment."

Chairman Buddy Mendes replied, "For item 6?"

Arambula continued, "It's for item 1. I would like to submit it."

"No, go sit down,"said Mendes.

Arambula had to wait after showing up to the meeting half an hour late and missing the chance to comment on an agenda item that had long passed.

But while he waited -- Supervisor Brian Pacheco surprised many colleagues and community advocates when he asked other supervisors to consider giving federal pandemic funds to both minority and female-owned businesses and families who work in essential jobs and need help with rent or mortgage payments.

Fresno County Supervisor Brian Pacheco said, "I'm trying to provide that safety net that the county is known for to help those people."

Pacheco proposed working along Centro La Familia on a housing retention program that specifically serves ag workers. $1 million in funding would be spread across all five supervisorial districts.

Community members who spoke said that with rising COVID-19 rates, the focus still needs to be on mobile and other testing sites that reach those in small rural communities.

Local advocate Reza Nekumanesh said, "You need to let us know that protecting our most vulnerable residents is your top priority. Those working our front lines, working in the fields, packing and shipping."

Another community activist, Leslie Martinez, told the board, "People are still getting COVID and they don't know where they are getting it because they are having a hard time accessing testing. To this day, they aren't sure where to get tested."

The county has nearly $82 million in federal CARES funding with more money on the way. But county leaders are cautious about spending it all now since the pandemic has become more of a marathon than a sprint.

Fresno County has been spending that money slowly, using it to pay for things like delivering hundreds of thousands of masks to farm workers, and adding medical teams to local hospitals.

One bright spot is that the county is now able to exceed the Governor's recommendation of 1,500 COVID tests per day.

Supervisor Pacheco plans to report back to the board in two weeks with more concrete details on how local businesses and families will be helped and who will be eligible.
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