COVID-19 Update: LA County Supervisors Set Up Task Force, Find Ways to Restart Economy

CNS News
April 29, 2020 - 1:19 pm

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted today to set up an "economic resiliency task force" -- to include each of the five board members -- as the county looks to balance a phased reopening of businesses with a continuing battle against the coronavirus.

   Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Hilda Solis recommended establishing the task force to help guide the board's decision-making.

   "We must balance the science with the recovery," Barger said. "Los Angeles County is resilient ... we will recover."

   The task force is expected to include local business owners, labor leaders and city officials as it works to find ways to restart the economy and create new jobs through public-private partnerships.

   More than 9,000 small businesses are in need of support countywide, according to the motion. The board has established a COVID-19 Relief Fund to offer loans and grants to small businesses and nonprofits unable to secure federal support under the Paycheck Protection Program.

   The county has committed $12 million to the fund, Wells Fargo Bank has pledged another $1 million and the board hopes to engage others to deploy a total of $22-$24 million, according to a spokeswoman for Supervisor Mark Ridley- Thomas. She said the county hopes to put that money to work as quickly as possible.

   An additional $15 million pledged by Goldman Sachs as part of the Paycheck Protection Program and announced at the same time as the relief fund has already been committed to various Los Angeles County businesses. A breakdown of those recipients is not yet available, according to Ridley-Thomas' office.

   The task force will consider other assistance and incentives to boost the economy, including tax credits, infrastructure investment and Community Development Block Grant funding. At the board's direction, it will also consider a permanent 501(c)(3) county fund to raise private dollars to address economic insecurity.

   Among a host of related directives, the board asked the director of the Office of Emergency Management to work with school districts on plans to keep children safe as restrictions are lifted, including guidelines for summer programs.

   A separate motion, also co-authored by Barger and Solis, called for the CEO to report back in seven days with details on the prerequisites for relaxing stay-at-home orders and a comprehensive plan for working with community and labor leaders on a reopening plan.

   The county's four key prerequisites for loosening restrictions, announced Friday, include:

   -- health care capacity, including adequate staffing and testing and stocks of ventilators and other critical supplies;

   -- protections for high-risk populations, including the elderly, homeless, those living in institutional settings or without access to services;

   -- increased capacity to quickly test, isolate and quarantine anyone with symptoms; and

   -- the ability to maintain physical distancing and control the infection.

   Solis defended the decision to enforce restrictions.

   "Although this is painful, this is temporary. We will have our lives back," Solis said. "There's no doubt that the decision (to impose stay-at- home orders) saved and will continue to save lives."

   Supervisor Janice Hahn said residents should not expect big changes in the short term.

   "I would caution everyone from thinking that we have the end in sight ... it's not the case," Hahn said.

   Without a vaccine against COVID-19 or a therapeutic drug to treat the virus, residents will still need to be cautious and take protective measures, Hahn said.

   "It's not like a switch, it's not just on or off, it's more like a dimmer," Hahn said, repeating an analogy used by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

   Hahn said the county would need to work in tandem with local mayors and that reopening beaches, for example, would need to be coordinated across jurisdictions to be effective.

   Weekend crowds at Orange and Ventura county beaches made clear that some people are chafing at restrictions that keep them at home. Other leaders are arguing that it's time to put people back to work, but Solis said moving too quickly could be dangerous.

   "The economy's strength can't be separated from the health of people that drive it," Solis said.