Earlier this year, Congress passed and the president signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, better known as the CARES Act. The legislation earmarked $150 billion in federal support to state and local governments, with San Bernardino County ultimately receiving $430.6 million.
Among the Board of Supervisor’s responsibilities were determining the most effective allocation of those funds to the County’s cities, towns, schools and school districts, fire districts and private hospitals — as well as investments made at the county level.
While many of the resulting expenditures focused on mitigating the spread of the virus, many organizations have made infrastructure improvements that will enhance efficiency and effectiveness long after the pandemic subsides.
“We’re very fortunate to have received emergency funding from the U.S. Treasury, and are impressed with the thoughtful ways our cities and schools have invested those funds,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Curt Hagman. “While most investments have been devoted to public health, many offer benefits we’ll be enjoying for years to come.”
Such investments range from the purchase of new Chromebooks and laptop computers for remote learning to critical technology upgrades that will enable the county and cities to improve service to their constituents long after the pandemic subsides.
A sample of what CARES has funded
One high profile program launched by the County was the COVID-Compliant Business Partnership, which earmarked $30 million for county businesses that agree to comply with a variety of COVID-9-related safety measures. Thus far, more than 5,300 county businesses have elected to participate in the program. Qualifying businesses still have four more days — until December 13 — to sign up for the program.
Municipalities in San Bernardino County received considerable funding to help them cope with the pandemic, and thus far, our 24 incorporated cities or towns have invested more than $20 million on 110 separate projects. Another $25 million will be made available for proposed infrastructure projects (which require a 1:1 match from the participating city).
Similarly, our schools and school districts have spent $30.5 million on 86 distinct projects with another $15 million available for infrastructure projects (again, with a 1:1 match from participating schools). These range from adding hand sanitizer stations to installing bipolar ionization upgrades to district-wide HVAC systems that will improve air quality and circulation. County school districts also invested almost $2 million to ensure low-income students have access to the technology needed to engage in distance learning.
Significant funds were also provided to the County’s private hospitals, with $10 million allocated directly on the basis of the average daily patient census, along with another $10 million worth of personal protective equipment, or PPE.
Non-profit organizations in the County have been allocated $5 million (through the Community Foundation) to reimburse demonstrable COVID-19 expenses. This is in addition to several non-profit groups that were also able to take advantage of the COVID-Compliant Business Partnership.
While the pandemic has been undeniably dreadful, we are impressed with the efficient ways our cities, schools, hospitals and others have identified urgent needs and responded appropriately. Our goal is to every dollar is spent efficiently and effectively for the benefit of county businesses and residents.