IMPERIAL COUNTY — Families facing financial hardship due to COVID-19 may soon get a break, at least in their utility bill.
The Imperial County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to request nearly $150,000 from the Community Development Block Grant funds set aside for COVID-19 relief. That money will go toward utility bill payments for some Imperial Valley residents.
The county is now developing guidelines for those who can receive utility payment assistance.
“This program will ease it a little bit so these people can get ahead of the game,” said Deputy County Executive Officer Esperanza Colio. “It’s only $145,000, but it’s an opportunity to secure additional funding in the future.”
The money is part of about $18.5 million available nationwide from the Community Development Block Grant program. Colio added that she has been told once this money is gone, there will likely be more that will become available at that point for the agencies who have applied for the funding.
Colio asked the board for direction during a public hearing as to whether the supervisors wanted funding to go toward business help, residential utility assistance or rent relief. Colio added that the utility relief would be able to help the most people of the three options available.
District 1 Supervisor Jesus Escobar made the motion to apply for the funding and gave direction to pick the project that would be most beneficial to the community, which was the utility assistance program.
The board also approved hiring an epidemiologist and administrative analyst for the public health department, both positions that would be geared toward the epidemiology department within the public health department. Funding for the two position comes from California Department of Public Health grants that the county has received, according to Public Health Director Janette Angulo. The total cost, including salaries, benefits, and retirement, is nearly $158,000.