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Supervisors Approve $20 Million In Business Relief Due To COVID-19 Closures

A closed sign at the Currant American Brasserie in downtown San Diego on Marc...

Photo by Andi Dukleth

Above: A closed sign at the Currant American Brasserie in downtown San Diego on March 26, 2020. The cafe is one of many businesses that had to close down because of the COVD-19 pandemic.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Wednesday to approve $20 million in aid for businesses affected by San Diego County's slide into the most-restrictive purple tier of the state's four-tiered coronavirus monitoring system.

Greg Cox and Nathan Fletcher, co-chairs of the County of San Diego's COVID-19 Subcommittee, proposed making $20 million in general funds available to provide relief to businesses negatively impacted by the indoor closures mandated by the purple tier.

"Due to the massive spike in COVID-19 cases and very concerning increases in hospitalizations we have to take action to slow the spread in San Diego County," they said in a joint statement. "Through no fault of their own, COVID-19 highest risk entities have to stop indoor operations. While we know this step is vital to help slow the spread in our community, we want to step up and help those impacted...

"Our goal for the $20 million is to provide relief to restaurants, gyms and other entities that have been directly impacted by the indoor closures due to our county's purple tier status. We want to provide this critical relief to them as our community works to slow the spread and stop the surge of COVID- 19 cases."

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Reported by Andrew Bowen , Video by Roland Lizarondo

One person who could use the relief is Lara Worm, owner of Bivouac Ciderworks in North Park. She has struggled under the pandemic restrictions while being careful to stay in compliance with the county's public health order — one of the criteria for receiving funds.

But Worm said the money she received the last time the county offered small business relief grants did not go far.

"While any little bit helps, the amount that I received doesn't even cover half of my payroll for one pay period," Worm said. "I'm a little bit skeptical of how much they have to offer and whether that's even going to be a help."

Funds will also be available for event businesses, such as caterers and party planners.

Cox, board chairman, said during Wednesday's virtual special meeting that providing the right critical relief for businesses is a priority.

"I realize we're in a situation none of us created," he said. "We want nothing more than for businesses to get back to normal, but this is one small step we can make to help them hang on."

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Supervisor Jim Desmond, described the funds a much-needed bandage for struggling businesses, but not a solution. "These businesses aren't looking for a hand-out; they just want to get back to work," the board vice-chairman said.

The funding will be divided evenly between the five supervisorial districts — with each receiving about $4 million. Officials said applications for the funds would be posted to the county's website by Wednesday evening.

Worm said she was hopeful president-elect Joe Biden's incoming administration would turn the tide on the pandemic. But she added that with the CARES Act funding virtually exhausted, Congress and President Donald Trump should pass another stimulus bill immediately.

"Unfortunately for businesses like mine ... the time between now and Jan. 20 could be a death sentence," Worm said.

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