Merced leaders share spending plan for $1 million in COVID relief funds

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Merced City Council is scheduled to vote on whether to accept $1,088,029 in coronavirus relief funds from the state during Monday's meeting.

If it is approved, the money would help reimburse a variety of expenses that have already been incurred, from the purchase of protective equipment to overtime costs for essential employees.

It would also help cover some of the programs put in place to help residents and businesses that are feeling the financial toll of the pandemic.

The City has seen a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases over the past month, from 479 on July 1 to 1471 on July 31.

That's the most in the county, and more than three times higher than the second largest city, Los Banos, which has about half as many people.

Acting City Manager Stephanie Dietz says several steps are being taken to help slow the spread.
She says, "There are there are pockets of what I would say are outbreaks, but we are working proactively with Merced County Public Health Department to identify those to wrap supportive services around them and to support those communities most impacted."

The City is also providing outreach through the 'Mask Up Merced' campaign, which includes both messaging and mask distributions. Staff members are visiting businesses to provide support with meeting new health guidelines through the Ready2Open program.

"So we're trying to really engage with both the individual and the businesses to make sure that the public and business owners have a safe interaction," says Dietz.

The city has invested more than $3 million through its own resources, as well as federal funding and private grants to combat the virus and help those hit the hardest.

That includes $1.2 million in utility bill reductions, $200,000 in rental and food bank assistance, and $500,000 for gift cards that will be mailed to every household to spend at local businesses.

The owners of Destino's restaurant say they just signed up to participate in that program, and they are thankful for the support they've received from officials and other residents throughout the pandemic.

Drew Williams says, "Each little baby step is a little miniature blessing. Just a little bit of light with how things are." His wife Tessa adds, "And knowing people are behind us, that's the main thing."
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.