The outdoor dining area of La Fonda in El Centro is shown in September. Many restaurants have struggled during the pandemic, with some being among the last businesses to reopen. Imperial County Environmental Health Department has started a COVID grant for the 740 eligible restaurants in the Valley using CARES Act funding. Deadline for applications is Dec. 17. | CORISSA IBARRA PHOTO
“We are moving forward with our retail food facility COVID assistance grant program,” Public Health Deputy Director Jeff Lamoure announced to the Imperial County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Nov. 17.
“As you know, food facilities have been directed to close, such as bars, while others were required to dramatically scale back their operation as a result of the governor’s stay-at-home order and the Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” Lamoure stated.
Eateries not suited for delivery or slow to adjust to carryout have been some of the last businesses in the area to reopen, and even now, as the county has remained in the purple, or most-restrictive, tier of state’s Blueprint, they find themselves hampered through setting up outdoors only.
The applications, which were mailed the same day as the meeting, are for eligible food facilities, Lamoure said. There are about 740 facilities that qualify for funding. Each eligible applicant can get $1,500 once the application has been completed and processed. The deadline to submit the applications is Dec. 17.
Supervisor Raymond Castillo responded that this is very much needed for the Valley.
Supervisors received an update at the Nov. 10 meeting about pandemic relief funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, the $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill passed in March. Those funds distributed at the local level have to be spent by Dec. 30, according to officials at that meeting.
Supervisors said they wanted to make sure the county can fully utilize the stimulus funding before it expires at the end of the year.
At the earlier meeting, Lamoure had mentioned that the county is getting ready to assess annual fees on retail food establishments, and this stimulus funding could be a chance to have some type of assistance to reduce their annual fees. However, at the Nov. 17 meeting, he reported the funding would be a grant program for those retail food businesses.