L.A. County To Approve More Coronavirus Relief Spending

Church And State Separation Examined

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote today on a plan allocating nearly $130 million in federal coronavirus relief funding.

In July, the board approved a $1.22 billion spending program funded by federal relief dollars. This latest plan relates to monies set aside under that program for contingencies and includes federal funding from other sources. All coronavirus relief dollars provided under the original federal bill must be spent by Dec. 20.

The county's acting CEO, Fesia Davenport, has recommended that $50 million be spent on food programs. If approved, another $30 million will be spent on programs to help community health workers reach out to vulnerable residents to educate them about the virus and available testing and other resources.

A total of $23 million is earmarked for COVID-19-related spending to help the homeless, including for purchasing housing units like motel rooms.

A small business grant program totaling $10 million is also included.

Supervisor Janice Hahn highlighted her interest in helping breweries and other small businesses that are closed under county health orders.

“I have heard from so many local breweries that are struggling to stay in business while following the county's health order,'' Hahn said.

“With our case numbers on the decline, I am hopeful it will be safe for them to fully reopen soon. But in the meantime, I want to get them the lifeline they need to make it through this crisis.''

The state has allowed breweries in Tier 1 counties like Los Angeles to reopen if they partner with food trucks or other meal providers, but Los Angeles County's public health officer has required breweries that don't qualify as restaurants to remain closed to slow the spread of the virus.

The Los Angeles County Brewers Guild has reached out to Hahn and other members of the board to urge them to make changes to the public health order.

In an Aug. 28 Instagram post, Hermosa Brewing Company in Hermosa Beach -- which qualifies as a restaurant -- said two-thirds of guild members don't have full kitchens and are explicitly prohibited from teaming up with third-party food vendors to provide outdoor dining.

“Not allowing the approximately 70 brewery tap rooms to operate in this way is not deterring patrons ... many are merely driving to breweries in neighboring counties to get a small dose of craft beer community,'' according to the post.

Priority under the small business grant program would be given to businesses subject to county restrictions that are more stringent than those required by the state, according to Hahn. That could include breweries, wineries, family entertainment centers and card rooms, depending on the size of their workforce.

Officials from Bell Gardens, Commerce and Hawaiian Gardens have urged the board to allow them to reopen card rooms outdoors, saying they employ hundreds of people locally and account for up to 75% of some city's revenues.

The state has allowed games to resume outdoors, but Los Angeles County's public health officer has mandated that the clubs remain closed to keep the spread of the virus under control.

The Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens is normally open 24 hours a day and generates roughly $1 million each month for the small municipality, according to the city. That's nearly three-quarters of its general fund. Without that money, Hawaiian Gardens and the other cities that rely on card

clubs have been forced to lay off workers or cut back on services.

Earlier this month, Gardena Mayor Tasha Cerda urged the board to reconsider the health order, saying the card rooms generate $8.5 million in city revenue annually.

“Our very diverse community has been hit the hardest,'' Cerda said. “These residents, they need our help now more than ever.''

During a virtual news conference Monday, mayors, city managers and council members pointed to the example of other card rooms that have reopened across the state, saying they have taken every possible measure to ensure that their locations are clean and constantly sanitized, in addition to setting up physical barriers and requiring masks.

More details about how to apply for the grant and rules about eligibility are expected to be available after the grant program is formally approved.

The board is also scheduled to hold a public hearing on the public health order, although the county's top public health official has said no new businesses will be green-lighted for opening until at least the end of the month.

Photo: Getty Images

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