County elected leaders Tuesday inched closer to developing a spending plan for a multi-million dollar infusion of federal COVID relief aid, weighing equitable distribution and how to target funds to maximize economic activity.
Plans are still far from being cemented, but broad outlines for how to spend the $73 million not already committed are starting to take shape.
Presenting on the pandemic's economic harm, Robert Eyler, an economics professor and Dean at Sonoma State University says while the amount seems generous, it can't solve every problem.
"The point really is, trying also identify where to/ put the federal funding that's here in such a way to sort of get the biggest bang for buck," he said.
Eyler's analysis suggests certain industries: food service, art, entertainment and recreation among them, may lag as the economy recovers. Those workers, could use help.
"One strategy might be to focus on re-training workers who used to have jobs in those occupations, who may not see those jobs come back, at least not over the next few years and perhaps maybe over the rest of this decade, " he added.
Stanford Professor Marlene Orozco told the board Tuesday that while virtually all businesses have been seriously hurt, minority-owned businesses have been impacted even more. She cited data saying minority-owned businesses continue having difficulty accessing capital. And that even held true when applying for federal Payroll Protection Plan money early in the pandemic.
"Compared to national trends, a greater share of businesses in Sonoma County report revenue declines, with BIPOC owned businesses experiencing the greatest impacts. And importantly, BIPOC-owned businesses were six and a half times more likely to experience lack of financing, which again was a persistent challenge exacerbated by the pandemic."
The county expects to have a spending plan in place by the end of December.