A San Mateo County comeback billboard in San Carlos, Calif., taken July 2020. (Photo courtesy of County of San Mateo Joint Information Center)

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday allocated about $10 million of federal funding to help local businesses and individuals most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funding will go towards family childcare providers, children’s summer programs, housing programs, small businesses, job development and infrastructure.

County staff chose those focus areas based on the needs of county residents.

Assistant County Manager Peggy Jensen, who presented some of the funding recommendations to the board, said that county staff surveyed communities before proposing a funding plan.

“The priorities that had been identified at the first part of the pandemic — housing, childcare, access to food, job development — remain the highest priorities to our communities most in need,” Jensen said.

For example, county staff found that childcare has been expensive and difficult to access, especially for infants and toddlers.

The county allocated almost $4.7 million for childcare providers, which would help them expand their capacity and extend the length of summer programs.

Jensen said the county could open the childcare grant program as soon as next week.

“We’ve been in touch with all the providers of summer programs and they’re in the process of planning and organizing everything for the summer right now,” Jensen said. “So if they’re going to expand to serve more children they need to know quickly.”

Several members of the public, including childcare providers and advocates, called in to Tuesday’s meeting to express support for the county’s funding plan.

Another $2.8 million will go toward supporting vulnerable residents and housing programs. Some $1.5 million will go toward infrastructure efforts at North Fair Oaks and along the coast, and $1 million will help support small businesses with workforce development, certifications and increasing accessibility for people with disabilities.

Throughout the pandemic, the county has supported small businesses through its grant programs but Jensen said that money was not the only thing that helped. Receiving advice and coaching support also helped businesses expand their expertise.

“Maybe they bought a computer, but then they got some classes on how to use that computer or maybe they were interested in building a website and they got assistance building that website,” Jensen said.

To provide ongoing support to small businesses, the county helped fund a new economic advancement center in South San Francisco that will open at the end of February.

Nell Selander, South San Francisco’s director of economic and community development, described the center as a “one-stop shop to address economic insecurity.” Two community nonprofits, the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center and JobTrain, will provide services at the center.

County in ‘good financial standing’

Money for these programs comes from the remainder of the $74 million in funding the county received from the American Rescue Plan Act last May. The county expects to receive another $74 million this May.

The county also received almost $1 million in state funding through the California Microbusiness COVID-19 Relief Grant Program. On Tuesday, supervisors authorized the county to administer this program.

Overall, the county remains in “good financial standing”, according to County Manager Mike Callagy, who provided a budget update to the board.

“The current revenue and expenditure trends track closely with the budget adopted by this board,” Callagy said. “On the revenue side, both the county sales tax and property tax are coming in slightly higher than anticipated.”

Due to job vacancies, the county also saved money that would have been used to pay staff.

“We are, like everyone else in the labor market, experiencing some difficulty in finding applicants who want to jump back in to the market,” Callagy said.

“We’ve got lots of job openings and I encourage those who are seeking jobs to think about a career with the county,” he said.