Kern to Launch Relief Program for Small Businesses and Nonprofit Organizations Affected By COVID-19

May 19, 2020 /

Kern County anticipates to launch the Kern Small Business Relief Program after Memorial Day weekend, County officials said Tuesday at the morning Board of Supervisors meeting.

The County has allocated $25 million to help small businesses in Kern County. The funds for the Kern Small Business Relief Program came from the CARES Act passed by Governor Newsom in March.

The relief program targets small businesses, owned and operated by people living in Kern County, that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It targets businesses with under 50 employees and businesses with under $5 million in gross revenue from 2019.

“We are priotizing the industries that have been hit the hardest,” said Jim Zervis, Kern County’s Chief Operations Officer.

Zervis named restaurants, salons, and hotels as some of the businesses that have been affected most by the pandemic.

Small businesses can receive a loan worth no more than $75,000, which must be spent in a 16-week time period. Businesses must use 34 percent of the loan proceeds to payroll and payroll-related costs; 33 percent to utilities and mortgage costs; and 33 percent for general working capital, according to Zervis.

These loans will be forgivable loans, as long as the businesses abide by the guidelines set for the use of the funds, Zervis said.

The relief program will be rolled out in phases. Zervis said the first two weeks of the program will be dedicated to restaurants because restaurants make up a large portion of employment. After the two week period, the program will then open up to any small businesses that meets the programs guidelines.

However, Supervisors expressed hesitation with this preference to restaurants.

Supervisor Mike Maggard suggested there be no preference given to restaurants during the first two weeks of the program opening up.

“We should consider expanding beyond restaurants,” Maggard said. “They have been able to operate with delivery and curbside pickup.”

Maggard said barbers, salons, and gyms should be prioritized since they have been shut down completely since the shelter in place order was issued in March. And some small business owners are not able to file for unemployment, Maggard said.

“There is no relief in sight for them,” Maggard continued. “I suggest to my colleagues it shouldn’t be limited to just restaurants in the first two weeks.”

Jasmene Del Aguila, a staffer with the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, asked during a public comment period how the County plans to ensure populations in neighborhoods that are often underrepresented in businesses assistance programs are informed of the program.

“These items are important for us to address and understand to ensure everyone has access to these resources during a difficult time,” Del Aguila said.

Zervis said the County is working with Chambers across Kern County, such as Wasco, Delano and Shafter.

Mission Bank, Valley Republic Bank, AltaOne Federal Credit Union and Valley Strong Credit Union are the banks participating in the relief program. Small businesses interested in applying will need to apply through the lenders. Applicants do not need to be a customer of one of these lenders to apply.

Zervis said the County will begin taking applications as early as next week.

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