Supervisors approve $20M to help businesses hit with COVID-19 closures


SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Wednesday to approve $20 million in aid for businesses affected by San Diego County’s slide into the most-restrictive purple tier of the state’s four-tiered coronavirus monitoring system.

Supervisors Greg Cox and Nathan Fletcher, co-chairs of San Diego County’s COVID-19 Subcommittee, proposed making $20 million in general funds available to provide relief to businesses negatively impacted by the indoor closures mandated by the purple tier.

“Due to the massive spike in COVID-19 cases and very concerning increases in hospitalizations we have to take action to slow the spread in San Diego County,” they said in a joint statement.

“Through no fault of their own, COVID-19 highest risk entities have to stop indoor operations. While we know this step is vital to help slow the spread in our community, we want to step up and help those impacted.

“Our goal for the $20 million is to provide relief to restaurants, gyms and other entities that have been directly impacted by the indoor closures due to our county’s purple tier status. We want to provide this critical relief to them as our community works to slow the spread and stop the surge of COVID- 19 cases.”

Funds will also be available for event businesses, such as caterers and party planners.

“Absolutely we’re going to try for it,” said Tom Tarantino, owner of Rovino in Little Italy and Rovino the Foodery in East Village. “We’ll probably apply tonight and keep our fingers crossed.”

Tarantino said his request for small business assistance through the city was denied early on in the pandemic, but he was granted a PPP loan from the federal government.

“It helped us with payroll for employees, kept us going a couple extra months with that, helped us to keep them employed,” he said. “What’s hurting us more is the opening and closing now that we are in the purple tier again so you end up ordering all this food, all this wine, all this beer and thinking that you’re going to be open and then all of a sudden you’re closed again.”

Cox said during Wednesday’s virtual special meeting providing the right critical relief for businesses is a priority.

“I realize we’re in a situation none of us created,” Cox said. “We want nothing more than for businesses to get back to normal, but this is one small step we can make to help them hang on.”

Fletcher said there has been a five-fold increase in COVID-19 cases, along with an alarming rise in hospitalizations and related staffing challenges.

“We are forced to take actions none of us want to take,” Fletcher said. “If we don’t limit the highest risk settings, the loss of life will be greater.”

Supervisor Jim Desmond described the funds as a much-needed bandage for struggling businesses, but not a solution.

“These businesses aren’t looking for a hand-out; they just want to get back to work,” Desmond said.

If the county truly cared about helping businesses, it would let them operate safely, Desmond said.

Before adjourning the meeting, Cox said he hoped county residents on Thanksgiving Day would remember the first responders, law enforcement and fire personnel, and hospital staff for their efforts during a challenging year.

The $20 million in county funding will be divided evenly between the five supervisorial districts — with each receiving about $4 million.

The county will accept applications for the funds.

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