County OKs more federal pandemic funds for small businesses, food banks

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – County supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved spending $24 million in federal coronavirus-related money on certain programs and services, including economic stimulus, behavioral health and regional food banks.

Using CARES Act funding, the county will spend an additional $7 million for the Small Business Stimulus Grant Program and $5 million for housing-related needs through the Behavioral Health Services department.

The county’s T3 (Test, Trace and Treat) program to combat the spread of the coronavirus will receive an additional $3.8 million; $3 million will be used for rent assistance; $2 million will go toward food banks; and child welfare programs will receive $1.6 million.

The county’s Great Plates program, which offers free meals to senior citizens, will also receive $1.6 million. Any leftover money from the Great Plates program will also go toward food banks.

Passed by the U.S. Congress in March, the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act helps those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

San Diego County received a total of $334 million of the federal funding, which is available through Dec. 31. Any unspent money must be returned to the U.S. Treasury.

Supervisor Jim Desmond, who made the funding proposals, stressed the need to strengthen some programs, especially once the CARES Act funding ends.

“We’re going to have a lot more people becoming food dependent,” said Desmond, who is also board vice chairman. “We really have to continue to meet the need.”

Desmond added that numerous businesses across the county that were partially shut down earlier this year “are bleeding dollars.”

Jim Floros, CEO of the San Diego Food Bank, told supervisors that the number of food-insecure people doubled before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

If funding is available, “we are the right place, at the right time to accept it,” Floros said.

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