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Supervisors give county greenlight to work with lenders to distribute $25M in COVID-19 relief funding to small businesses

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The Kern County Board of Supervisors gave the county the go-ahead on Tuesday to enter into agreements with lenders to implement the new Kern Small Business Relief Program. 

During a previous meeting, the board unanimously approved a plan to dedicate $25 million in local CARES Act funding to small businesses impacted by COVID-19. The county has already been in contact with four local lenders, including Valley Republic Bank and Mission Bank, about distributing the money.

The banks are expected to begin taking applications on May 26, according to the county. 

“(Businesses) don’t need this in a year. They are going through this trying time now and they desperately need that assistance,”said Chief Operating Officer James Zervis. “We are anticipating a large number of applications coming in, which is why we are using four lenders.”

The goal of the KSBRP is to provide forgivable loans covering up to four months of average payroll, or up to a maximum of $75,000, to local businesses with fewer than 50 employees and $5 million in annual revenue.

Businesses that receive loans must spend them within four months and spend at least half of it on payroll, according to county guidelines. A maximum of 40 percent is allowed to be spent on rent, utilities and mortgage interest. Up to 10 percent of the funding can be used for general capital expenses.

Any accrued interest on the loans will also be forgiven, according to the county. 

Within 18 weeks, businesses must also receive free consulting from a Small Business Association Technical Assistance Resource Center, such as the Small Business Development Corporation at Cal State Bakersfield, in order for the loan to be forgiven. 

The county had initially planned for the first few weeks of the program to be exclusive to local restaurants. However, upon pushback from the supervisors, Zervis agreed to open it up to other businesses such as salons, gyms and hotels. 

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