Supervisors Approve $20 Million ‘Bridge’ to Help Operators Forced Outdoors
By Lou Hirsh CoStar News
November 25, 2020 | 4:16 P.M.
San Diego County supervisors unanimously approved a new $20 million assistance fund intended to help restaurants, gyms and other area businesses hit hardest by state orders shutting indoor operations after a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.
During a special virtual meeting Wednesday, supervisors voted 5-0 for the assistance fund, following up on prior local pandemic assistance programs that have essentially run dry as potential new federal assistance proposals have stalled. Officials said new federal assistance is unlikely to be approved until early 2021.
“Until we get through this pandemic and until we have a vaccine and it’s brought under control, we’re forced to take the steps we’re taking,” said Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who proposed the new relief program along with Supervisor Greg Cox.
“So the $20 million we’re asking to be approved today is hopefully just a bridge, a little bit of help to get folks through the next few months while we await a larger federal effort,” Fletcher said during the meeting.
Cox said the intention is to provide “the right critical relief” to businesses in California’s second most populous county and the nation’s fifth most populous. Cox noted the need has become urgent after the county’s original $20 million round of business assistance, derived from federal pandemic relief funds, garnered $780 million in local requests from 5,000 businesses seeking help.
Supervisors noted that in addition to restaurants and gyms, known to be among the hardest hit industries now banned from operating indoors, the new money will be made available to small firms serving the events industry. That includes caterers, party supply rental companies and event-space operators.
On Nov. 21, many San Diego businesses that had been operating at reduced capacities were forced to shut down their indoor operations after the state placed several counties in the most restrictive purple tier based on risk for coronavirus spread. The decree put added pressure on already struggling operators who are now unable to operate outdoors due to weather, space and other constraints.
Supervisor Jim Desmond echoed recent complaints by restaurant and gym operators that their businesses have been unfairly singled out to carry the burden of pandemic closings, after they’ve invested significantly in health protocols to prevent their establishments from creating a large number of infections.
He said more significant policy changes are needed to help businesses survive, and state officials need to treat them more fairly and consistently when addressing spiking infection rates.
“It’s a much-needed Band-Aid, but it’s not a solution,” Desmond said of the new county financial assistance.
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