Beneficiaries of $30 million Kern Recovers loan program include restaurants, salons, nonprofits, sports programs

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) –The Kern Recovers Small Business Forgivable Loan Program has distributed $30 million to nearly 1,000 Kern County businesses that have been dealing with slowdowns and shutdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now we know exactly which businesses received those loans, and list is a diverse one.

If your favorite restaurant survives the economic chaos of the pandemic, it may well be because it received a lifeline from the Kern County Board of Supervisors.

Exactly 938 Kern County businesses representing 255 unique industry types collected between $75,000 — the maximum — and $130 — from the county government-administered program.

The beneficiaries ranged from restaurants — lots of restaurants, including Woolgrowers, Uricchio’s, and KC Steakhouse — to museums. From hair salons to gyms, from non-profits to sports organizations.

The program, which is tapped out now, all $30 million distributed, was similar to the federal Payroll Protection Program. But Kern Recovers was different in that it was available only to local small businesses with fewer than 50 employees and under $5 million in annual revenue.

Four local financial institutions — Valley Republic Bank, Mission Bank, Valley Strong Credit Union and Alta One Federal Credit Union — partnered with the county to process applications and administer funds.

These are forgivable loans — free money — as long as the recipients meet certain criteria in how they use it. But, as Kern County Chief Operating Officer Jim Zervis explained, this is money well spent.

“We are all very much all intertwined together,” Zervis said.”Those residents pay taxes, the businesses pay taxes, they fund the government. We’re there to support and provide services, provide safety and provide support to those businesses and our residents. It’s very much a cohesive economy that we’re all a part of and we recognize that.

“So when you have actions by the state, in this case, in response to the public health emergency, that shuts down a key component of the economy, that being our small business component, which accounts for the majority of economic activity within the community, it’s a critical hit not just to those businesses, but also to the families, to the residents, and ultimately to our ability to provide government services.”

Among the beneficiaries: the Fox Theater, which has been dark since March, but still must pay $13,000 per month for utilities and other mandatory bills.

Said Majestic Fox Theater manager Matt Spindler: “It’s definitely starting to feel like a little bit of a light at the end of the tunnel. We qualified a couple of days ago for some relief funds through the county. That will get us, without having to burn through current savings, to about November or December-ish.”

The list was made public in response to a public records act request made by open government advocate Mark Salvaggio.

Is it possible the county may fund another $30 million for local small business? The cupboard is almost bare at the moment, but county government officials understand just how vital small business is the region’s economic vitality. Funding for Kern Recovers comes from $157 million in federal emergency funding.

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