Kern OKs $25m in relief funds

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Kern OKs $25m in relief fundsWhile the federal government approved $2 trillion in coronavirus relief funds in March, many small businesses did not qualify for the Payment Protection Program and other available resources.

But on Tuesday, the Kern County Board of Supervisors approved $25 million to help local proprietors left out of other financial assistance options.

The Kern Small Business Relief Program will provide forgivable loans to owners of salons, restaurants, gyms and other operations that were overlooked in CARES Act options. Only businesses with fewer than 50 employees, and less than $5 million in annual revenue, are eligible.

“We are not looking for big corporate franchises,” said James Zervis, the county’s chief operating officer. “We want to really target those local small businesses that are truly small.”

The program could be up and running as early as Tuesday, May 26, according to County Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop.

“I think we’re probably moving quicker than any county our size I can think of,” he said.

In recent weeks, the board of supervisors has taken an aggressive approach to revitalize the commercial sector after the economic hardships triggered by COVID-19 protocols.

The county also launched a committee that includedboard members, staff, healthcare officials and entrepreneurs to explore ways to expedite the process of reopening. (See also related story, page 1).

Several local lending institutions, including Mission Bank and AltaOne Federal Credit Union, are now accepting applications. According to county officials, applicants need not be customers to qualify for the loans.

“We do have members who fall into this category, and hopefully we will be able to see some of those resources extend broadly across the county,” said Tim Smith, executive director of the Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s important to include our rural areas that have struggled with the closure and similarly been unable to qualify for federal assistance.”

Pictured: James Zervis presents to the Kern County Board of Supervisors an option to help small businesses suffering from negative impacts of COVID-19.

Story First Published: 2020-05-22