What’s at stake?

“There simply isn’t enough funding to go around,” said Pacheco, thanking the residents and Leadership Counsel for their input.

From water infrastructure projects to a turkey testicle festival organizer, several Fresno County projects will receive federal stimulus funds to offset the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With a 5-0 vote on Tuesday, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors agreed to fund a list of 22 sub-recipients projects that will receive nearly $14 million in funding as part of the county’s American Rescue Plan Act spending plan. Top awards included money for water infrastructure, youth programs, and insurance.

The board approved over $2.5 million for a water storage tank in the unincorporated community of Malaga, as well as nearly $2.5 million for the city of Mendota to build a water tank and booster pump station, and over $650,000 each for sewer and storm drain projects in the towns of Tranquility and Biola. The county also approved $2.4 million for the San Joaquin Valley Insurance Authority to reimburse the costs of coronavirus medical expenses.

Smaller ARPA awards included funding for programs that address negative economic impacts on local businesses, tourism, travel, or hospitality sectors.

Among the awarded projects was $20,000 for the Dunlap Community Club nonprofit to offset the loss of income from the annual Turkey Testicle Festival, an annual festival which, before the pandemic, had been held for over 40 years in the Sierra foothills community of Dunlap. The festival features music, dancing, a turkey testicle cook-off, and more.

According to a Facebook post from the organization, the event was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the poor air quality from surrounding wildfire smoke. Festival organizers couldn’t be immediately reached to see if the festival would be held in 2022.

Other Fresno County groups that received ARPA funds to offset revenue loss due to COVID-19 include the Big Fresno Fair and Clovis Rodeo Association, which will receive $205,000 and $200,000, respectively.

Supervisors approved several other sub-recipient projects, including after-school and youth programs, small business emergency grant programs, and more.

Fresno County Ad Hoc Committee Recommended Subrecipient List

WHO ELSE WILL RECEIVE ARPA FUNDS?

Fresno County received over $194 million in federal pandemic stimulus funding. The county has agreed to spend $112.5 million on public health, and economic impacts, $15.4 million on premium pay for essential workers, $10 million on lost revenue, $18.7 million on water, sewer, and broadband projects, and $37.3 million for sub-recipient ideas and projects.

Some of the top project recipients that received awards on Tuesday include:

$600,000 for the Boys and Girls Club of Fresno County. Clubs to receive funding are in Zimmerman, East Fresno, Pinedale, Clovis, Sanger, Reedley, and Huron.

$512,00 for Fresno Metropolitan Ministry for the Food to Share program which distributes food via 49 church locations, CBOs, and youth centers

$500,000 for ACTS Foundation for food distribution program in Northwest Fresno

$500,000 Twilight Haven, Skilled Nursing Facility to address negative impacts of COVID-19, recruit nursing staff and provide competitive wages, signing and retention bonuses to nursing staff and caregivers.

The ad hoc committee is also considering 25 other sub-recipient projects, including a mix of public health, water infrastructure, digital literacy, and business innovation programs. A potential second round of sub-recipient project funding is contingent upon the availability of funds, according to George Uc Fresno County ARPA Analyst.

Uc expects an update on funding available for these projects in December.

NO FUNDING FOR CANTUA CREEK, EL PORVENIR WATER DEBT

Not all community members agree with the funding County’s ARPA decisions.

Last month, residents of the rural West Fresno communities of Cantua Creek and El Porvenir, as well as community advocated Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, asked the board of supervisors to use ARPA funds to pay off the communities’ water debt.

According to a May 17 email to The Bee from Amina Flores Becker, Fresno County Resources Division Manager, a May 2022 projection estimates that El Porvenir will owe $370,000, while Cantua Creek will owe $40,000 by the end of the current fiscal year.

At the time, Board Chair Brian Pacheco said it would be “difficult” to use ARPA money for the water debt because “this debt occurred prior to COVID-19.”

On Tuesday, a handful of residents and advocates returned to the Board of Supervisors to double down on their request for help.

“I’m not implying that we should compare and choose between which disadvantaged communities get ARPA funding,” Mariana Alvarenga, policy advocate for Leadership Counsel, said during public comment. “However, I do want to ask the board to continue to see communities like El Porvenir (and) Cantua Creek…when allocating these funds.”

On Tuesday, Pacheco thanked the residents and Leadership Counsel for their input but said, “there simply isn’t enough funding to go around.”

Plus, Pacheco said, “while they didn’t get this funding, they have been considered in other funding sources,” such as the estimated $12 million in state funding for a new well and water treatment projects in Cantua Creek and El Porvenir, as well as allocation for a new park in El Porvenir.

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Melissa is a labor and economic inequality reporter with The Fresno Bee and Fresnoland.

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