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Imperial County Board of Supervisors Chairman Michael Kelley is shown recording the 2021 “State of the County” address, which was broadcast online Thursday evening, March 11. | PHOTO COURTESY OF COUNTY OF IMPERIAL

State of County: Chairman Kelley Rings ‘Hopeful’ Tone for Imperial After a Year of COVID

Imperial County is in good shape, according to those at the helm of local government operations, and these authorities believe the future is only glowing brighter.

Over the backdrop of some of the most exhilarating news to hit the region in a little over a year, Imperial County’s movement this week into the Red Tier of the state’s road to recovery, county Board of Supervisors Chairman Mike Kelley delivered the 2021 “State of the County” address, largely ticking off achievements and doling out praise to those who have assisted community efforts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Imperial County Board of Supervisors Chairman Michael Kelley (right) salutes the American flag and a color guard presentation at the Imperial County Fire Department. | PHOTO COURTESY OF COUNTY OF IMPERIAL

“All of the accomplishments shared in tonight’s presentation were due to our employees and their efforts as public servants,” Kelley said in a pre-recorded message released online Thursday evening, March 11. “These are all people who get a sense of fulfillment that comes from knowing they are making a measurable difference in the lives of others in their community.”

In a year fraught with some of the highest incidences of COVID infection rates, hospitalizations, the economic insecurity at the personal, commercial, and governmental levels that come from enduring lockdowns, business closures, and layoffs, and what seemed like waves of community spread that never seemed to let up, the announcement on Tuesday, March 9, that the county would enter the Red Tier was the first sign that the march toward normalcy was finally within sight.

And Kelley’s message throughout sounded that hopeful tone.

Beginning the address with a more general thankfulness, Kelley was quick to get into specifics, citing first the efforts of the Public Health Department before delving into every other major government entity in the region.

Kelley made sure to channel graver concerns head-on and with emphasis, outlining the efforts of the County Public Administrator’s Office and their ultimate execution of objectives related to the county’s most vulnerable population in this time of crisis: the elderly.

“I am proud to state the county’s Area Agency on Aging experienced no gap in services throughout the pandemic,” the county’s top elected official said. “In addition to home-delivered meals, countless number of food boxes, relief bags, gift cards, and wellness checks were provided to seniors across the county.”

Even as Kelley stressed of the deep fiscal impacts the pandemic would have on the Valley for years to come, he also made note of the fact the county’s greatest asset, agriculture, was kept intact with the implementation of safety regulations and guidelines that have kept workers and their managers from endangering themselves and others with possible contraction of the coronavirus that has killed over half a million people throughout the country.

Addressing other industries and small businesses, Kelley stated that the county has spent more than $4.6 million to help those select businesses particularly impacted in a dramatic fashion because of the mandated closures of much of the private sector that keeps the Imperial Valley afloat.

“Our Board of Supervisors adopted and created five programs that offered fiscal relief, including a COVID business relief program, electric and water utility bill assistance, restaurant business grants, and public benefit loans and grants.”

Further, Kelley addressed the concerns of those who fear the growing risk of a homeless population that has become increasingly visible in the area since the beginning of the lockdowns.

“Social Services works to eradicate homelessness in the region and helped to develop a strategic homeless plan and establish-and-deploy programs to provide direct assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as a homeless assistance hotline and homeless housing protections and projects to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Kelley took special time out of his address to heap a thankful verbal embrace to all those serving in any field of law enforcement throughout the past year, acknowledging their triumphs in the face of such difficult circumstances like the one first responders faced with the Niland fire in June that took one life, destroyed 37 structures, and left 43 families without a place to stay.

“This incident response, at a time when our county resources were strained, is a testament to the devotion and passion that our county employees and board have for its residents.”

His address, coming to a close, Kelley reiterated that although the year prior was anything but normal, the dawn of a new day is upon us.

“I am truly hopeful for what 2021 will bring for every resident of this community that your government serves. This is our county, our future, and hope is on the horizon.”