County Spends $4M of COVID Relief

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

April 7, 2022

Small businesses in San Luis Obispo County could see some relief in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic response’s impacts to the economy, and child care businesses and agencies could see six times as much.

County Supervisors on March 15 approved allocating some $4 million of its share of the $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” or ARPA (COVID-19 relief monies from 2021), funding a $500,000 COVID-19 Small Business Grant Program; and $3 million “for child care projects,” according to a staff report from the County Administrative Office.

The County Office of Education (COE) will be the “fiscal agent for a coalition of child care organizations.”

President Biden’s economic stimulus spending plan was approved in March 2021 and was intended to “speed up the United States’ recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing recession,” reads the County report.

However, the ARPA gives until 2026 to spend the money, but, the County said ARPA monies “must be committed by December 31, 2024.”

These latest allocations are part of a larger dolling out of the ARPA’s largess. Altogether, the County was in place to get some $55 million of ARPA monies. 

Last June, County Supervisors voted to allocate $9 million of that to businesses, non-profit organizations, and child care programs and companies to “mitigate the negative economic impacts” of the pandemic.

Last January, Supervisors further broke down how they wanted the $9 million doled out: $500,000 for small business grants; up to $2.5M for business technical assistance, workforce development, and job training; $3M to non-profit groups; and $3M for child care.

The small business grant monies will be split 5-ways with $100,000 being awarded in each of the Supervisorial Districts, according to the report.

From there, “Businesses with 10 or fewer employees may receive $5,000 and businesses with 25 or fewer employees may receive $10,000, meaning that between 10-20 grants would be available per district,” reads the report. “If there are unspent funds in one district after the close of the application window, the remaining money will be allocated to a district with higher need.”

Grant awards are on a first-come first-served basis, according to the report, and eligible businesses must “have been impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency. Similar to the two prior rounds of small business grant funding, the Workforce Development Board will serve as the fiscal agent.”

The Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce is teaming with the County and representing the Central Coast Coalition of Chambers, “to provide support with application intake technical review, and outreach to the business community.”

The grant application process was to begin on April Fools’ Day (April 1, 2022).

Laura Fielder with the County Administration Office, said the small business grants could go to any business in SLO County, including those in the incorporated cities. And anyone wanting to apply should call 805-238-0506 or email to:

She explained that the Paso Robles and Arroyo Grande Chambers of Commerce are acting as the liaisons for the grant programs, in conjunction with the other Chambers in SLO County. 

Information on eligibility is available online at: 

As for the child care millions, the County report said that back in January Supervisors directed the staff to put together a coalition of service providers and come up with an implementation plan.

In February, the coalition members met with a Supervisor’s committee — Dist. 5’s Debbie Arnold and Dist. 3’s Dawn Ortiz-Legg — and hammered out a framework for doling out the ARPA millions.

First the County Office of Education, run by an elected Superintendent, will oversee the awards. Something called the SLO County Child Care Planning Council will provide “governance and program oversight of overall ARPA implementation and assist in technical assistance and outreach.”

The Child Care Resource Connection — part of CAP-SLO — will provide technical assistance; First 5 SLO County will do “facilitation of Initial planning and communication;” and “other partners” are expected in time to jump on the ARPA childcare bandwagon by “joining the Child Care Planning Council” through “alignment of work efforts, and/or recipients of ARPA funding.”

How’s the money to be spent? According to the report, some $1.2M would be in direct financial assistance “to all currently/licensed/active child care providers, [i.e. centers and family child care homes], in SLO County.”

The County money would match State funds allocated by the “Community Care Licensing Division of the Calif. Dept. of Social Services, as a way to extend relief and stabilization efforts.” 

This segment of the grant program would also ensure school-aged childcare is supported as well.

They plan to spend $900,000 developing an application and selection process to apply for a grant, “for applicants who want to expand their existing program or start up a new program.”

CAP-SLO and the Planning Council’s involvement will allow the program “to leverage additional funding sources, technical assistance during the grant application process.”

And an additional $900,000 will be used for “reinvigoration of the child care workforce,” reads the report. The money would subsidize the cost for training people interested in getting into the childcare field “by expanding on existing funding for the Ticket2Teach apprenticeship program;” and to “upskill” existing child care workers “to increase compensation and professional development through the Quality Courts Program.” (EBN looked up the meaning of “upskill” and no matches were found, however, we believe the seemingly made-up word meant to say, “improve one’s skill set” so as to be more employable and make more money).

These ARPA monies are apparently meant to tide these businesses over until the State and Federal governments make more money available. “The plan also offers a transitional bridge of support pending anticipated and potential state and federal funding dedicated to this sector in the coming years (e.g. additional state funds toward child care stabilization, universal transitional kindergarten, and expanded preschool; federal investments/appropriations)” the County report said.

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