Dr. Henning Ansorg, Public Health Officer for Santa Barbara County | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

At least $45 million in federal funding is likely headed for Santa Barbara County, part of $1.3 billion from the CARES Act that Governor Newsom has redirected to counties. Like 42 other of California’s counties, Santa Barbara fell below the population of 500,000 threshold to receive the federal stimulus. Statewide, county officials had banded together to petition the governor for relief.

In announcing the new influx on Wednesday afternoon, Supervisor Gregg Hart noted it would help offset the county’s lost revenues and increased costs from COVID-19’s effect on sales tax and health-care demands, but only partially. “It won’t fill the entire hole,” he said, “but it will go a long way toward filling that deficit up.” He noted the funds still had to be passed by the state Legislature.

With the issue settled of holding Lompoc penitentiary cases separate from the county’s — an approval granted by the state Department of Public Health — the county’s attestation of compliance with the state’s reopening rules was expected to be approved in the next day or two. The county has already set up a link to the county’s RISE Guide, at readysbc.org, to allow businesses to reopen while complying with all health orders.

Nonessential businesses had to wait, Dr. Henning Ansorg cautioned, till the guidelines were signed in ink before opening. With the precautions residents were now taking, he noted, only three people tested positive today. No cases were reported from the prison. The numbers were steady at the hospitals, another state requirement for reopening, at 28 COVID patients in total, 10 of whom were in intensive care wards.

Santa Barbara County was in a critical phase of reopening, Ansorg said, when people would be tempted to congregate as their favorite places reopen. “We must remain vigilant,” he stated, even while looking forward to “enjoying sitting on the patio of a restaurant or coffee shop.” With the three-day Memorial Day weekend coming up, the county’s health officer reminded, travel and hotel stays were still only for essential business, not leisure.

When the requests for financial help reached 7,200 applicants, the 805 Undocufund had to shut down its registration line. Undocumented families and individuals were left out of the federal stimulus program, said Marisela Morales, but they work in the restaurants we frequent, pick the food we eat, help with our children’s care, and contribute millions to the economy locally and statewide.

The humanitarian relief fund has collected $2.4 million in the past two months — including $1 million from one “magnificent major donor,” Morales said — but the group estimates it needs $8 million for the 126,000 undocumented workers in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties they hope to help. Morales, who is executive director with CAUSE, one of Undocufund’s sponsors, said they intended to supply each with $1,200 to match the stimulus spending they have been denied. The money would go to workers who make less than $40,000, the group that accounts for 40 percent of the workers who’ve lost their paychecks during the pandemic. “No amount is too small,” she said of donations. “And no amount is too great!”

High fire season began on May 18, and County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig discussed changes that would be made to evacuations during emergencies. Shelters would still go up, but meals and sleeping arrangements would be handled differently to accommodate health and distancing dictates. Fever screenings for workers and evacuees were likely, as were face coverings and wellness checks. Hartwig added that fire season prep included ensuring you were registeredat readysb.org to receive emergency messages. “If we can’t reach you, we can’t alert you,” Hartwig said.

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