Official: Bulk of county’s CARES Act funds already spent or committed

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RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Well over half of the federal Coronavirus, Aid, Relief & Economic Security Act funds received by Riverside County have been spent, or are earmarked and will be spent on specific programs, an Executive Office spokeswoman told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, Sept. 29.
“We are making sure not to spend more than what’s allocated,” Lisa Brandl told the board. “Are we going to overspend our CARES Act allocation? No, we are not.”
The county has received roughly $450 million in CARES allotments,
originating from the federal government and dispensed by the state. Another $37 million is expected to be disbursed to the county before the end of the year.
The first and largest installment, $431 million, was awarded in April. Since then, an additional $56.2 million has been assigned, according to Brandl.
In a previous board meeting, the supervisors asked Brandl for specifics on expenditures that they did not feel were adequately addressed in her first presentation on CARES Act outgo, and Brandl returned with clear references, not laden with charts and graphs.
By far, the county’s largest expenditures have been for Riverside University Health System staffing, including a six-month round-the-clock activation of the Emergency Operations Center that has since ended, as well as procurement of personal protective equipment, the establishment of COVID-19 screening sites and mobile labs.
According to Brandl, $322.7 million in actual or committed expenses fall into this category.
The Small Business Assistance Grant Program required a $50 million commitment, three-quarters of which has been spent. The board established the program in June to provide individual relief grants of up to $10,000 per qualifying business that has been impacted by the public health orders tied to virus containment.
The program is in its final phase. However, if funding is made available for additional distributions, the county will announce it before Dec. 31. More information is available at www.RivcoBizHelp.org.
Brandl said about $34 million has or will be expended for the county’s program to address virus impacts on “congregate facilities,” including assisted living and nursing homes, rehabs and jails.
The board in June established the Riverside County Rental Relief Fund, under which qualifying renters can receive up to $3,500 in CARES money to pay their lease obligations, if they’re unable to meet them because of being thrown out of work by the public health lockdowns or similar difficulties.
The board set aside $30 million, and to date, 2,318 households countywide have received checks, totaling $7.6 million. Because the utilization rate isn’t what the supervisors expected, they voted today to take $8.36 million out of the original allotment and re-allocate it to homeless relief programs. Information on applying for rental assistance can be found at www.UnitedLift.org.
Other CARES Act distributions include $10 million for a Nonprofit Assistance Fund that makes grants of up to $10,000 available to individual qualifying not-for-profit organizations; $10 million for the Office of Education’s “All for One” program that will provide thousands of laptops and tablets to students who are in distance learning programs because of school closures; and $4 million for the Pathways to Employment Program, which provides job training and placement assistance to low-income residents struggling because of the lockdowns.
Details on the program, including how to gain admittance, can be obtained by calling 951-955-1161.
Brandl acknowledged that the county’s commitments have swollen beyond the CARES Act funding that’s currently available — by about $60 million. But according to her presentation, that gap will be covered using grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the California Office of Emergency Services.