Fresno City councilman questions community leader’s politics before vote to allocate CARES Act funds to her organization

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FRESNO, California (KSEE) — Fresno city leaders finalized the contracts to award CARES Act funds to several organizations to help them provide services like COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. But it came after a heated debate over one of the organizations in the contracts.

In a special meeting Thursday, Fresno City Council voted on three contracts to bolster the city’s response against COVID-19. They were for Fresno Building Healthy Communities, Bautista Medical Group and Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission.

Overall, nearly $4 million were awarded, with Fresno BHC getting more than $2 million. This initially, was introduced last week as part of a more than $10 million COVID-19 relief package from the city’s CARES Act funds.

However, before voting on the contract for Fresno BHC, both councilmen Garry Bredefeld and Paul Caprioglio said they opposed it. Bredefeld in particular put the organization’s CEO, Sandra Celedon, in the hotseat for a controversial tweet in May.

“On May 27, Sandra tweeted ‘Burn it down.’ That’s a quote,” Bredefeld said. “As Minneapolis and [one of their] police stations was being burned to the ground.”

The two councilmen questioned Fresno BHC’s ability to perform services like testing and contact tracing.

Caprioglio suggested amending the contract to go toward Fresno State since they have a nursing program. Also, because the university already works with Fresno County for contact tracing.

Ultimately, Bredefeld wanted the contract to go toward all higher education health care programs in the city.

“My motion, if I can make one, is to give the $2 million and spread across those three programs — UCSF Fresno, Fresno State and Fresno City College. They’re doing the very same services and we’ll spread it out equally,” Bredefeld said.

The three contracts aim to help community organizations train for and provide testing, contact tracing, health education and other services for the populations hardest hit by the virus like farmworkers.

In the end, all contract passed. Celedon said the funds are expected to be doled out early next month.

“We’re really thinking more about how do we build what we need in our community in order to support one another,” Celedon said. “Make sure we’re moving into a system of prevention.”

To see all the contracts voted on today, click the name of the organization:

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