Two and half years into the COVID-19 pandemic, Sonoma County officials Tuesday conceptually agreed to distribute millions of dollars in federal COVID relief funds.
The money, some thirty nine and a quarter million dollars worth, was tentatively earmarked to dozens of non-profit groups. Officials will still need to draw up and get contracts signed, before the money is disbursed.
Dozens applied, outlining how their organization would help address local need for housing, food and youth activities along with counseling for mental health, substance abuse and LGBTQ youth among others.
There were however, some unwelcome surprises. Several groups didn't make the cut. Andy Bannister is with the Redwood Empire Food Bank.
"There was a time when this administration said we can't afford for the Redwood Empire Food Bank to fail, and yet, here we are with none of it, not a single penny. I don't know where we go from here,"
He says food and transportation costs are up, more people are in need while COVID has meant fewer volunteers and donations.
Officials say they specifically sought out new groups, especially ones focused on disadvantaged communities and demographic groups most impacted by COVID. Alegria De La Cruz, director of the county's office of equity says several rejected groups will still get a piece of the pie.
"Because we had this intense focus on collaborative work and on partnerships, many of the folks whose own projects weren't necessarily the ones chosen for funding also show up in a number of other proposals where they will be partnered with other organizations."
While snubbing the food bank, hunger was not overlooked. Two other groups: Growing the Table and Living Room Food Services did receive funding recommendations.
While she praised the process and results, Supervisor Susan Gorin noted none of the money will go to groups in the Sonoma Valley.
"We have to recognize the need for assistance runs throughout the county it's not just central Santa Rosa providing a few services here and a few services there."