Fresno County and city has six weeks to spend CARES Act funds as leaders scramble to help everyone

Local News

FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – Leaders from Fresno city and Fresno County are scrambling to meet the deadline to spend its CARES Act funds as the Central Valley experiences another COVID-19 surge.

Combined, the city of Fresno and Fresno County received $190 million in state and federal CARES Act funding for COVID-19 relief. The deadline to spend it is Dec. 30.

Fresno allocated the $92 million it received in June, with $45 million going toward community investment. Fresno City Council President Miguel Arias said he expects it to be spent by Dec. 30.

But as COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases rise, Arias said there’s concern over the resources that are available.

“If we don’t do our part to reduce the infection rate, we’re going to be overwhelmed in our hospitals, we’re going to be overwhelmed in our food lines and we won’t have resources for everyone because we don’t anticipate Congress will take action for another few months,” Arias said

He said $1 million was reprioritized from housing for the homeless to additional testing and contract tracing, but adds that the city has limited testing ability.

“We don’t have enough resources as a city to test everyone who wants to be tested. We don’t have enough beds to give everyone a hospital bed who we anticipate will get sick,” he said.

Arias said he’s urging residents to celebrate the holidays responsibly and follow guidelines.

“The hardest thing we’re going to have to tell families if this peak continues to grow is if your parents or grandparents get sick, we’re not going to have a hospital bed for them in the county of Fresno and that’s the message I don’t want to have to deliver,” he said.

Fresno County received $98 million in CARES Act funding. According to its website, the county’s total proposed expenditures sum up to $69,211,000 with $28,807,000 available “to address unforeseen costs.”

Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig said their priorities have been and are testing, contact tracing, personal protective equipment and ensuring hospitals have the capacity to care for patients.

“Is it enough money? Absolutely not. If you look at the financial harm that’s been caused to businesses, the harm that’s been caused to people’s mental health, it’s far exceeded the $98 million we were given,” Magsig said.

Other concerns amid this second surge are the effects on vulnerable populations.

The COVID-19 Equity Project is funded by both the county and city and is aimed at better helping these communities. Their efforts revolve around testing, contact tracing, education and providing financial support when it comes to quarantining.

The project had a deadline of Dec. 30, but Arias said they’ll be voting during Wednesday’s meeting to extend their contracts until the end of February of next year.

Tania Pacheco-Werner, assistant director of the Central Valley Health Policy Institute and one of the authors for the COVID-19 Equity Project proposals, said an extension is necessary to continue to support essential workers and vulnerable populations.

“When I hear of an extension, that is what I’m thinking. I’m thinking about the future and how we’ve already gathered those relationships with those people that we’re now going to be reach out back to and make sure they’re connected to the vaccine infrastructure when it does get set up,” Pacheco-Werner said.

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