The Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to continue Kings County’s American Rescue Plan small business assistance program until its official end date of Feb. 1, 2023, instead of ending it early on Dec. 31 of this year .
The decision came after District 2 Supervisor Richard Valle expressed his displeasure with the program after Assistant County Administrative Officer Kyria Martinez distributed the money allocated through the aid program to each city.
With $6 million in state money available to the county to help small businesses with up to $25,000 in COVID relief funds, Hanford received $2.2 million, Lemoore received $1,020,000, Corcoran received $840,000, Avenal received $540,000 and $1,320 unaccounted dollars in all areas. .
So far, the district has received 398 applications, but has approved only 118 of them. The county awarded Avenal small businesses $9,674 and Corcoran businesses received $210,000. Lemoore businesses were awarded $281,000 and the county’s unincorporated communities received $123,000. Businesses in Hanford were helped the most with just over $1.4 million awarded.
Martinez, who said staff was pleased with the progress the program had made, asked that the board push the deadline for ending the program to Dec. 31 instead of allowing the program to run with a Feb. 1 end date.
“We’re happy with the process we’ve been able to do and we’ve gotten to a point where all the applications have been reviewed and we believe the intent of the program is being met,” Martinez said.
Supervisor Valle, however, was confused by the idea of withdrawing funds at first, expressing a need for it throughout his district.
“The program didn’t even make it to Lemoore because it wasn’t done right,” Valle said. “Now go out and start looking at the numbers in Avenal and in Corcoran, it’s disgusting. Nobody got any money in my district … I’m angry at the position we’re in now. There’s a need in Avenal, there’s a need in Corcoran . There’s a need for Kettleman. I’m sure there’s a need in Stratford and Armona. Either they don’t know or the effort wasn’t there to know.”
Valle said he could not vote to take the money off the table and suggested the program be allowed to continue on its planned course until Feb. 1. He also stated that keeping the deadline as it was would allow each supervisor to contact their local representatives and chambers of commerce to help spread the word to local businesses about the remaining funds and encourage more businesses to apply. .
Dais was eligible to keep the program open until February 1.
In other business, for the first time in more than a decade, a Kings County high school will have a Club Live Friday Night. Supervisors voted to approve a $19,000 budget amendment to accommodate the club at Corcoran High School. Once established the club will aim to reduce access to cannabis to young people within the community.
“It’s all youth-led and youth-driven in terms of how youth would like to address substance use disorders and the prevention of those here in the community,” said Kings County Behavioral Health Deputy Director Katie Ernst.
The board is seeking to extend the county’s contract with Paragon, a firm that helps the county make federal connections.
“The firm provides professional, federal advocacy on behalf of Kings County, which includes representation of the county’s interests before Congress and federal agencies,” Martinez said. “Paragon has worked effectively with Kings County over the years to establish legislative and regulatory priorities to assist with strategic planning and advocacy to advance and protect the county’s interests at a federal level.”
The firm, which has worked with the county for more than a decade, impressed the board enough for them to question whether or not they could extend their contract with Paragon from one to four years. Joe Krahn, a representative for Paragon, enthusiastically agreed that the partnership between the firm and the county has been very strong and that Paragon would be excited to extend their contract.
The board tabled finalizing the contract for a future meeting so district staff can prepare a four-year terms and conditions contract.
In continuing efforts to prevent the spread of COVID and other infectious diseases, the Board approved an 18-month, $1.2 million contract with the California Health Collaborative (CHC). The CHC will provide the county with preventive services such as access to self-tests and vaccinations, as well as community outreach.
“We’ve been at the forefront of trying to provide more accessible testing, vaccinations, and information,” said Jennifer Acidera, a CHC representative. “It’s something we’re prepared to continue and strengthen in Kings County.”
The next meeting of the Kings County Board of Supervisors is set for Dec. 20 at 9 a.m., with the swearing-in ceremony set for 12 p.m.