Rescue plan

Kern County uses US bailout funds to help communities recover

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) – Kern County is working to allocate and use funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to help communities recover from the effects of the pandemic.

Last year, Congress passed a $1.9 trillion spending package. Of that amount, $350 billion went to the coronavirus state and local fiscal stimulus fund, $65 billion was allocated to counties, and Kern County got nearly $175 million.

Kern County operations manager James Zervis said the money was being used in a variety of ways, including helping to reopen libraries and maintain their staff. $15 million will also fund a multi-departmental effort to address homelessness, behavioral health and addiction.

“It’s a pretty significant amount of funding and it has a bit more flexibility than some of the previous stimulus funding that’s been made available to county and local government,” Zervis explained. “Our efforts to partner behavioral health officers with law enforcement. To be able to go out and really try to help some of the people who really have mental health issues, behavioral health issues and connect them and get them off the streets and into a supportive housing situation where they can get some of the help they need.

The county receives the relief amount in two installments. Half of this amount was distributed last year and the next payment arrives in May. Earlier this week at the oversight board meeting, Zervis presented plans for how to use the remaining funds based on public feedback and feedback.

“A change to this plan based on feedback and really changing implementation guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department and we’re going to take $5 million of that funding to invest in parks in qualified census tracks, underprivileged communities throughout Kern County.”

The money will also be used to improve water, sewer and broadband infrastructure and to help train employees who have been impacted due to COVID.

“Invest a sizable amount of money into transitional job training, to provide people with an opportunity that may have been misplaced during the pandemic. To provide them with training opportunities and put them back in touch with the labor market. »

Zervis said the guidelines on how the money is used aren’t too strict, but there are some limitations.

“You’re not allowed to put it in a rainy day fund or just put it aside. In fact, the intent of the federal government is that they don’t want you to pay off the debt or hoard this money. They want it out in the community and used to deal with some of these impacts of COVID-19.

In terms of accountability, Zervis said the county will have to send us detailed reports to the treasury on how the funds were spent, may have an independent audit of records, and the office of the comptroller of county auditors will ensure that funds must be allocated by 2024 and fully utilized by 2026.