Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, who represents Central and East San Jose, speaks to the media gathered at the Santa Clara County building on December 14, 2020. (Jana Kadah/Bay City News)

Santa Clara County supervisors want to create a $10 million grant program that would provide and install air filtration systems for small businesses and nonprofits most impacted by the pandemic.

At their Tuesday meeting, supervisors unanimously voted to explore ways to create such a program and identify federal and state funding to support it.

“I’m concerned that for smaller businesses, (air filtration systems) may fall off the radar just because of the other choices that people have to make,” said Supervisor Cindy Chavez, who proposed the grant program.

She noted that air filtration would be an essential addition to businesses because it could keep residents safe not only during the pandemic, but against wildfires and other air quality issues as well.

“Indoor air must be properly ventilated and filtered if we are to reopen safely, quickly, and effectively,” Chavez wrote in her board referral.

She said the most effective way to do so was to install an upgraded MERV-13 filter, which removes at least 85 percent of particles as they pass through the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, or a HEPA filter which can remove more than 99 percent of airborne particles that pass through it.

Other supervisors agreed with Chavez but voiced concerns over the price tag.

Supervisor Joe Simitian suggested using COVID-19 health order violation fines collected by the county to be reinvested into the air filtration grant program.

The notion to reinvest the fines collected, which total to around half a million dollars, was originally Supervisor Susan Ellenberg’s, in which she suggested it be used for any form of COVID relief for small businesses.

In her board referral, Chavez said funding from American Rescue Plan could potentially cover 90 percent to all of the costs in assisting small businesses.

However, Chavez and county staff are looking at other COVID-19 relief from the state and federal government and considering having cities match funding.