Every day throughout the third week of March there will be Community Economic Resilience Fund (CERF) meetings hosted by the Kern Coalition — these meetings encourage and facilitate community engagement around planning projects and budgets for quality jobs.
Most meetings are scheduled in the evening, and participants were asked to identify the best meeting times moving forward. Accessibility includes Spanish interpretation and virtual meetings presenting the same information as in-person. It was also important for The Kern Coalition to provide a hot meal or snacks at every meeting, especially for individuals coming straight from work.
CERF presenters suggested adding more support to attendees in the form of childcare, gas gift cards, and cash or direct deposit stipends.
MARCH 13, 2023 – ARVIN
MARCH 14, 2023 – MOJAVE
MARCH 15, 2023 – TAFT
MARCH 16, 2023 – DELANO
Participants engaged in conversation with other attendees, who were individuals from Arvin and local organizations. They were able to discuss ways to improve the CERF meetings and what phase in the planning process South Kern is in. Some community members commented that more purposeful advertising and flyers could help rally more people to participate in the CERF meetings.
“What works for us is flyers to put outside the markets and the library, where there are a lot of parents who take their kids to the library,” said Yesenia Martinez with Líderes Campesinas.
Martinez also mentioned social media and networking amongst other organizations are vital to gaining attention. The goal for CERF and the invested community members is to have as much participation with an emphasis on youth attendance.
CERF is designed to bolster workforce development, and The Kern Coalition team members touring Kern communities, to present and gain feedback, need direct guidance from the communities most impacted by the lack of job opportunities.
Odilia Hinojosa, an Arvin resident, shared the importance of having access to the CERF meetings. Hinojosa has a daughter who currently attends Bakersfield College while working part-time, and she struggles with transportation costs due to the distance from Arvin.
“I’m going to let [my co-workers] know, for the reason that we can get a better job, a better future for us and our children,” Hinojosa stated in regards to spreading awareness of CERF meetings.
Kern County Supervisor David Couch for the 4th District attended virtually and commented that providing food and stipends is a necessity for the community.
Elizabeth Martinez, with Comunidades Aliadas Tomando Acción, feels a responsibility to bring the community together because she’s from Arvin.
“I’m already identifying community leaders that will be coming to the table, and the people that they can bring… Childcare is very important. A lot of our families have multiple children, so we would appreciate someone to be caring for them while the parents or adults are listening to the meetings and sessions,” stated Martinez. “I really like the frequency of the meetings for now.”
She also added that as planning continues she would like to see meetings happen twice a month.
Currently, the CERF meetings throughout South Kern are in Phase 1 which means the collaborative focuses on getting interested members of each community to meet, and requests for proposals to be submitted have begun. Progress from the next 18 months of engagement will dictate how much each budget will be. All Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) who have or are sponsored by a 501c3 status organization can apply for funding. Phase 2 will tentatively start in January 2025, ending the planning stages of projects and beginning the implementation.
Ways to interact with CERF regional planning is to suggest what studies and data Kern Coalition uses to research for future projects. Submit a proposal to cater meetings, eligibility requirements are to be licensed, and expected to serve a minimum of 25 people each meeting with a contract that can last between six to 18 months.
Kern residents can stay informed by going to the kccd.edu/kerncoalitioncerf website and signing up for updates.