By Dawn Ortiz-Legg
In late November of 2020, I was honored to be appointed as the 3rd District Supervisor for the county of San Luis Obispo by Gov. Gavin Newsom. As I have called this district home for more than two decades, my constituents’ concerns are my number one priority. From the onset of taking my seat, I dedicated myself to helping them live safe, healthy, and prosperous lives.
This is a challenging task under normal circumstances, but daunting while navigating through a worldwide pandemic.
My first days in office were some of the darkest days of the pandemic, for our county and the 3rd District. As we moved from the red tier back to the purple tier, I found it difficult to watch restaurants have to shutter again, schools prolong their distance learning programs, and hospital beds fill to almost maximum capacity. County emergency operations staff and local health care workers diligently helped constituents navigate yet another round of COVID-19 obstacles.
At the beginning of my third month in office, myself and my fellow supervisors were laser-focused on the countywide economic development activities as they related to COVID-19 and small businesses. Many cities and chambers of commerce in the county had established grant programs, but nothing was available for businesses located in the county’s unincorporated areas. In addition, the lack of one place to link to other state and federal relief programs was an issue for small businesses.
Childcare was another critical economic driver to come into play; working families and providers struggled to make ends meet on this most important service.
To serve our constituents in the best way possible, we began to identify various opportunities to provide resources to local businesses and to generally mitigate the harmful impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In early March, the Road to Recovery program was approved unanimously, and $130,000 from the General Fund was earmarked to be used for COVID-19 economic development-related activities. The Road to Recovery program takes a four-pronged approach toward helping small businesses by:
1. Revamping and updating the Central Coast Economic Relief Resources page of the RecoverSLO website to be a central repository of relief and COVID-19 information for small business owners;
2. Establishing a $50,000 micro-grant program for small businesses in the unincorporated areas, with applications available in April;
3. Earmarking $55,000 in aid to SLO County educational support services, for young childcare centers;
4. Allocating $25,000 to support the 2-1-1 social services hotline or other programs in general support of small businesses and residential recovery.
These funds were approved, of course, before the American Rescue Plan Act was signed into law. With those extra funds coming to our county, this program can serve as a strong foundation, a down payment, for what is to come. With four months in office and spring officially here, I am cautiously optimistic that we are on the Road to Recovery in SLO County.
• Dawn Ortiz-Legg is a member of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors, representing the 3rd District, which includes most of the city of San Luis Obispo as well as the cities of Pismo Beach and Grover Beach.