Kern organizations come together to apply for CERF grant

June 24, 2022 /

Organizations in Kern County are in the process of applying for the Community Economic Resilience Fund (CERF). They have until July 25th to put together a plan of how this fund would be used in Kern to help bring in high-quality jobs.

“In order for Kern County to continue its growth we just look at other industries outside of Agriculture and Fossil Fuels. Through this initiative we have a opportunity to create the blueprint for future high quality jobs for our communities. The state and federal government is looking to Kern on the template for true and equitable economic development with a worker centered approach,” said Pedro Ramirez, with Kern Inyo Mono Central Labor Council.

John Paul Lake, executive director of B3K, said their goal is to bring in 100,000 quality jobs by 2031 by investing in all five drivers of economic development: traded sectors, talent, innovation, infrastructure and governance.

“CERF is a significant opportunity for public investment in the five drivers of economic development. Addressing these five drivers will help realize B3K’s goal of 100,000 more Quality Jobs in our region,” said Lake.

The Kern Coalliton planning for this grant includes Kern Community College District, B3K, Community Action Partnership of Kern (CAPK), the Central Labor Council, and many more. They are focused on finding the best way to help communities in Kern and seeing what they need.

“This collaborative approach helps to ensure there is an inclusive method to addressing the core intent of the CERF grant in building a more sustainable and resilient economy in Kern County with equitable access to quality jobs in maintainable industries,” said Jeremy Tobias, Chief Executive Officer for CAPK.

According to Jessica Grimes, Chair of the Central Mother Lode Consortium and Dean of Economic and Workforce Development at KCCD the focus is on helping disinvested communities.

Disinvested communities are communities that most likely before the pandemic struggled financially making below a living wage. So, the fund is not just to help bring in quality jobs but to help with the economic development to create, and equitably give access to the jobs.

“The goal of it really is equity. It’s about having post-pandemic economic resilience for what is called disinvested communities,” said Jessica Grimes, Chair of the Central Mother Lode Consortium and Dean of Economic and Workforce Development at KCCD.

While developing the plan they plan to hold community meetings to hear input and will look at past and current data, labor market studies, and research reports from higher education institutions like the California State University of Bakersfield and UC Merced.

“We’re still trying to figure out how to have meaningful community engagement because that’s the first ingredient to ensure that we’re redesigning a process that centers the worker and equity first, so that’s number one,” said Grimes. “And then number two, we have some pre-existing opportunities… We have a lot of incumbent workers who may have lost jobs. How do we deal with the unemployment situation? Maybe re-skill some folks.”

Once they have the community meetings they plan to have them in the evenings. That way people who work can still make them options to join the meeting virtually, and bi-lingual that way everyone has the opportunity to hear the information and provide feedback.

If they are awarded the grant they will find out around October and then have 18-24 months to come up with investment proposals and apply for the implementation of the grant.

“I’m hopeful that this is the beginning of just an infrastructure that brings a lot of investments to Kern County,” said Grimes. “CERF is providing us with an infrastructure by which we can build upon and ensure that the disinvested communities don’t just have access to CERF funds but there are other grants out there, other funding sources that can definitely benefit these disinvested communities. And I think that bringing this infrastructure together is going to help bring more resources to us and I think that’s going to be seismic.”

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JaNell Gore

Ja'Nell Gore is a student at Cal State Bakersfield. In addition to writing for Kern Sol News she is a poet who loves any chance she has to perform and be with her community.