Group asks state to look into Fresno County coronavirus funding use, failing to protect rural communities

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FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) — The Latino Legislative Caucus sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom this week, asking the state to look into how local governments are using their federal relief funds, and calling out Fresno county for failing to protect rural communities where many Latinos and essential workers live.

The issue was discussed during a virtual townhall Friday hosted by Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula. 

“COVID-19 has shown us some of the socio-economic disparities that are occurring right now in our community. Latinos bear the burden of our COVID positive cases at 55.4% of the cases and the deaths,” said Arambula.

“My job is to hold people accountable, and I’m going to continue to do that alongside all of our community partners and community leaders so that our communities stop dying and we get the help that we deserve,” said Leslie Martinez from the Leadership Council for Justice and Accountability.

But Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig says outside oversight isn’t necessary since the county has been doing its best to protect all residents with the funding provided.

He said earlier this month, they put some of the money aside for a program aimed at improving communication with communities where many may not speak English.

The county also uses the funding to build more testing sites and spent about $7 million to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak at the county jail and about $5 million in grants for small businesses.

“So I would say that our Board of Supervisors has been very proactive in rolling these dollars out, but we don’t want to spend them quickly and find ourselves out of funds, and yet still having needs that need to be met,” said Magsig.

Magsig said the county still has about 50 or 55 millions dollars left from the 81.5 million from the CARES Act, and some of that will likely be used to support hospitals and alternative care sites, like the convention center when it opens.

Fresno city and county leaders are planning a joint workshop on Tuesday, July 28 to discuss the plan for how to spend the rest of the CARES Act money.

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