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Imperial County Spends $4.6 million to Help COVID-striken Businesses, Residents

Imperial County spent more than $4.6 million to help residents and businesses deal with COVID-19 issues since the pandemic began last year, according to a report on Tuesday, Feb. 23.

Five programs have been offered by the county to help residents and businesses in the Imperial Valley since the pandemic started in March 2020. Those programs include a coronavirus business relief program, electrical utility bill assistance, water utility bill assistance, restaurant business grants, and public benefit grants and loans.

The largest of the programs, County Executive Officer Tony Rouhotas Jr. said, is the business relief program, in which $1.8 million went to a total of more than 200 businesses.

The county also assisted restaurants, through that same federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding, by giving $1,500 microgrants to 151 locally owned restaurants to help fund supplies for to-go orders and equipment to have outdoor dining, Rouhotas said.

The county also partnered with the Imperial County Office of Education to fund supplies to increase broadband access for students, with the amount totaling $347,000.

There was money that came out of the county’s coffers, specifically the community and agriculture benefit proceeds. The county gave $10,000 grants to more than 100 businesses, and just last month the county board voted to forgive those loans.

Overall expenses totaled $4.6 million to date, though some of the programs are ongoing, Rouhotas said. 

Those are “very good expenses and very well paid,” said county board Chairperson Michael Kelley.

District 1 Supervisor Jesus Escobar said county staff went above and beyond in distributing these funds, and “it’s a team effort that’s spearheaded by your staff,” he told Rouhotas. 

“We’ve heard all the stories about businesses closed,” Rouhotas said. “I think we all have our favorite eateries that we have not been able to enjoy. This was a small token of a way to give back to our local community, based on the direction you guys gave. I hope it is that little boost to keep them going. … It’s a small token to show you guys care about your community.”