$100 Million to Boost Microentrepreneurs, Small Businesses, and Nonprofits

Los Angeles area businesses and nonprofits face significant challenges during the current public health and economic crisis of COVID-19. Thousands of those businesses will now be eligible to receive critical financial assistance thanks to $100 million of additional funding which will greatly increase the impact of the Los Angeles Regional COVID-19 Recovery Fund, a joint effort by the County of Los Angeles, the City of Los Angeles, and philanthropic partners.

The Recovery Fund, which has already awarded $3.2 million in grants to more than 300 L.A. County microentrepreneurs, small businesses, and nonprofits, has now been bolstered by an additional $60 million in CARES Act funding from the County of Los Angeles and an additional $40 million from City of Los Angeles. This will provide thousands of Los Angeles County businesses with awards ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.

“COVID-19 has not only been a public health challenge of enormous scale and human impact, it has devastated a major economic engine for our communities and regional economy—small businesses and microenterprises,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “With this fund, more help is on the way and it will be distributed equitably to the communities and small businesses most in need.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated communities across Los Angeles County with significant health and economic impacts,” said Kathryn Barger, Chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. “The L.A. Regional Recovery Fund is one of many efforts led by the County to help our residents and businesses get through these challenging times and emerge stronger than before.”

“COVID-19 has dealt a devastating blow to countless mom-and-pop shops, local restaurants, microentrepreneurs, and nonprofits – and we bear a clear responsibility to help them navigate through the worst of this crisis,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “The L.A. Regional COVID Recovery Fund is a tribute to the power of our partnership, between the City and County, to deliver financial relief, vital aid, and the tools for recovery to the small businesses and workers who form the backbone of our economy.”

Businesses can apply for the next round of Recovery Fund awards starting today by visiting LACOVIDFund.org. Businesses will only need to apply once to be eligible for future rounds. Nonprofit organizations, which play such a unique and important role in our communities, will also be eligible for $75,000 awards in a later round of funding.

“The City and County of Los Angeles are dedicating tens of millions of dollars in grant funds, which, in part, will prioritize assistance for underserved businesses and nonprofits, such as low-income Black, Latino, women and microentrepreneur business owners,” said L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez. “These are small business owners who did not get a fair shot at the federal government’s stimulus PPP funds, but need immediate assistance to keep their operations open. Each owner’s narrative is the story of L.A. and an American Dream unlike any other. The L.A. Regional COVID Fund exists to keep these Angelenos and their businesses and non-profits alive and flourishing. We encourage all eligible business owners to apply for Round Four.”

“Small businesses, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and now more than ever, I am committed to ensuring they get the financial support they need to get through this crisis so they can survive and thrive long after this economic downturn,” said Los Angeles County Chair Pro Tem Hilda L. Solis. “Nothing is more important to me than keeping small businesses and our regional economy strong, and we all win when we invest in our hardworking entrepreneurs. This unprecedented global pandemic requires an unprecedented response, and L.A. County stands ready to offer relief to our small businesses.”

“We have been able to use these grants to keep some small businesses afloat and save local jobs, but there are so many more businesses that have been devastated by this pandemic and need our help,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, but this latest round of funding is another opportunity for business owners, gig workers, and nonprofits to get help and the new features make it easier than ever to get connected to future grants.”

“Our local businesses and nonprofits have struggled to adapt to the pandemic, doing their best to keep their employees on the payroll and find creative ways to stay in business despite tremendous obstacles,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “I am glad that L.A. County is now able to offer dramatically more money to our businesses to help them weather this storm.”

“The coronavirus has caused major havoc to our city. Millions are unemployed with no savings to fall back on, our small businesses are on life support struggling to survive or expect financial challenges for years to come,” said Los Angeles Councilmember Curren D. Price, Jr., who opened the Business Resource Center (BRC) inside his District Office on 43rd Street and Central Avenue in 2014 to help local entrepreneurs. “Our small local businesses need a lifeline and The L.A. Regional COVID-19 Recovery Fund provides just that—a glimmer of hope for workers to maintain their jobs and our business community to weather the economic hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

To ensure equitable access to capital across various demographics throughout the region, grants will be distributed through an online weighted system. The public-private partnership will be administered by national community development financial institution partner, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). LISC will administer the grant process and work through local partners to reach businesses and nonprofits who may not have received Federal relief funds.

“Our small businesses and nonprofits are in need of even more resources right now to better weather the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tunua Thrash-Ntuk, Executive Director of LISC-LA. “LISC is proud to be working with L.A. County and L.A. City to provide grants to small businesses and nonprofits to ensure that our social safety net is strong during this unprecedented time.”

Recovery Fund programming was developed in partnership with LISC by the County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs (DCBA), the Los Angeles County Development Authority (LACDA), and the City of Los Angeles Economic and Workforce Development Department (EWDD). “The $100 million Recovery Fund represents an unprecedented partnership between L.A. County and L.A. City agencies to support the area’s pandemic-ravaged small business and nonprofit community in an inclusive and equitable way,” said DCBA Director Joseph M. Nicchitta. “No matter where a small business or nonprofit is headquartered within the County, they are encouraged to apply for a grant through the Recovery Fund.”

Emilio Salas, LACDA Acting Executive Director, said, “We understand that keeping businesses in service means preserving a business owners’ dream, securing employment, and maintaining access to resources in a community. The monetary support being provided will reassure businesses, and residents alike, that we are undergoing this crisis together.”

Local partners providing technical assistance with proven experience in serving the County’s most vulnerable communities include the API Small Business Program, Inclusive Action for the City, LA Area Chamber of Commerce, New Economics for Women, Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment (PACE), Pacific Coast Regional (PCR), The Center by Lendistry, and Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation.

Those who need assistance are encouraged to call the L.A. County Disaster Help Center, a one-stop for local emergency resources, at (833) 238-4450 or visit lacountyhelpcenter.org. The Disaster Help Center can connect callers to LA Regional COVID Fund partners and provide the most updated Fund information.

Curtis Tucker Health Center Reopens in Inglewood after Major Renovation

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas leads the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the reopening of the Curtis Tucker Health Center in Inglewood. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

After a $7.6-million expansion and remodel, the Curtis Tucker Health Center reopened with new and improved low-cost primary and specialty care, warm and welcoming spaces, and enhanced safety measures to protect against COVID-19.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas cut the ceremonial ribbon at the entrance and led people inside Los Angeles County’s first Health Center to be remodeled with fully integrated services in mind. The County Departments of Health Services (DHS), Mental Health (DMH) and Public Health (DPH) have all joined forces to treat 7,500 patients a year at the Health Center – a 50 percent increase from before the renovation – regardless of their ability to pay.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly and Public Works Director Mark Pestrella get a tour of the Curtis Tucker Health Center. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

Adapting to the pandemic, the Health Center will also offer telehealth appointments and drive-thru flu shot clinics. It will also provide immunizations, as well as services for the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, including the administration of pre-exposure prophylaxis (commonly known as PREP), to prevent the spread of HIV.

Once COVID-19 Health Officer orders are lifted, patients and visitors will also benefit from the new 1,300-sq.ft. community room, called the Curtis Tucker Center for Community Wellness, where they can learn about healthy cooking, family wellness, mental health and fitness training. All classes are free. For a calendar of virtual programs, go to http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/chs/CTCCW.htm

“This clinic is a model of what integrated care can and should look like. Here, patients can get a warm handoff from one healthcare provider to another and have a range of needs met – all under one roof,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, who played a key role in the project. “With a renovation that focused on community needs, innovative service design and improved connectivity, we are able to provide high-quality care in a high-quality space.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas inside one of the new examination rooms at Curtis Tucker Health Center. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts added, “While serving as an Inglewood Police Officer, I knew Curtis Tucker as a resident, Councilman and Assemblyman for the City of Inglewood. It is so fitting that the renovated Curtis Tucker Health Center will provide local, badly needed mental health services right here in the City. I want to thank the Board of Supervisors, and particularly Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, for investing in public health preventive care for this region.”

“We’re very excited to announce the reopening of the Curtis Tucker Health Center providing integrated primary care, behavioral health and substance abuse services for patients in Inglewood and the surrounding areas,” County Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly said.  “Moreover, as part of DHS’ innovative response to the COVID-19 pandemic, over half of our patients are now choosing to get the services they need through our new telehealth technologies. We’re proud to provide access to quality healthcare the way our patients want it.”

The convenience of being able to consult one’s doctor over the phone seems to have improved accessibility. Dr. Ghaly said the no-show rate at DHS facilities has declined 30 percent.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas in the new Curtis Tucker Center for Community Wellness community room. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

“Hope, recovery and wellbeing are what our communities need during this time of unpredictable and unprecedented, often painful, challenges,” County Mental Health Director Dr. Jonathan Sherin said. “The newly renovated Curtis Tucker Health Center offers residents safe, secure and affordable access to a wide range of lifesaving resources and critical mental health supports.”

County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said, “The Curtis Tucker Center for Community Wellness is yet another step in Public Health’s mission to address inequities throughout our community. By providing a litany of resources and services, including immunizations, HIV AIDS testing and treatment, STD testing, and numerous preventive health services, the Curtis Tucker Center for Community Wellness promises to be a space where the entire community can gather, engage, and learn about health and wellness.”

“This investment in the local community and its public infrastructure addresses a critical need for quality healthcare, good-paying jobs and economic stimulus,” County Public Works Director Mark Pestrella added. “Public Works is proud to partner with County health agencies under the direction of Supervisor Ridley-Thomas to improve the quality of life for residents of Inglewood and surrounding communities.”

The Curtis Tucker Health Center will provide the following services:

County Department of Health Services:

  • Primary care

County Department of Mental Health:

  • As part of DMH’s Prevention and Early Intervention services, the DMH/DHS Collaboration Program clinician will provide short term, evidence-based mental health treatment to adult DHS patients suffering from depression and/or anxiety.  The DMH clinician works alongside the patient’s DHS provider in a truly integrated effort that de-stigmatizes mental health services and addresses symptoms in their early stages.
  • DMH’s Anti Stigma and Discrimination team and Promotoras (Spanish-speaking community health workers who build bridges between clinical care and local residents, helping patients navigate the healthcare system) will provide workshops and classes at the new Community Center.  All classes are to be provided remotely until the Health Officer orders are lifted.

County Department of Public Health (starting in 2021)

  • Walk-in Nurse Clinic
  • HIV AIDs Testing and Treatment
  • PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis)
  • Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Testing and Treatment
  • Sharps (needles) container drop-off
  • Triage
  • Tuberculosis (TB) Screening and Treatment

Curtis Tucker Center for Community Wellness

  • The 1,300-sq.ft. community center is a new addition to the existing building, equipped with a kitchen and audio-visual equipment. Once the Health Officer orders are lifted, it will be available even during off-hours and weekends to provide educational programs such as healthy cooking, family wellness, and fitness training.

Fortifying Homeless Shelters Against the Spread of COVID-19

DHS Housing for Health teams unbox various sanitation tools for limiting the spread of COVID-19 throughout facilities serving the homeless.

Determined to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks in homeless shelters, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has provided a $575,000 grant to purchase partitions, air flow devices, and other protective equipment to ensure safe physical distancing and prevent the spread of infection among vulnerable people experiencing homelessness.

The Los Angeles County Department of Health (DHS)’s Housing for Health Division will use the Supervisor’s grant to help shelters and interim housing facilities make immediate modifications to sites within Los Angeles County’s Second District, protecting the health and safety of both residents and staff.

“People who have been living outdoors, exposed to the elements and without access to basic necessities for possibly years on end, are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Turning shelters into an extra-safe haven during the pandemic will protect not only our homeless neighbors but also the heroic street outreach teams and others who work with them, as well as the general public.”

“Congregate living environments in which residents share spaces are vulnerable to the spreading of infections,” said Libby Boyce, DHS Housing for Health Director of Street-Based Engagement, Interim Housing and Enriched Residential Care. “Improving infection control measures is the number one safeguard against COVID-19 outbreaks in shelters and interim housing sites. It is up to leadership in the homeless services community to ensure that people experiencing homelessness are as protected as possible. We are so grateful to Supervisor Ridley-Thomas for making this critical resource available.”

The shelter improvement project is an added layer to the County’s comprehensive response to the COVID-19 pandemic. DHS Housing for Health has led the testing surveillance strategy for people experiencing homelessness in both sheltered and unsheltered environments. In addition, 23 temporary COVID Response Teams were created to do wellness checks, provide technical assistance and testing. To date, more than 26,000 tests have been performed and more than 400 shelters and 800 encampments have been visited.

In addition, DHS Housing for Health operates several hundred quarantine and isolation beds to ensure that individuals who cannot isolate in place can be safely housed while recuperating from COVID-19. The County CEO’s Homeless Initiative also worked to reduce the number of people in congregate shelters by securing 4,000 hotel and motel rooms through Project Roomkey. These rooms are for homeless individuals over age 65 or who have a medical condition making them vulnerable to COVID-19.

The County Department of Public Health oversees all COVID-19 outbreaks, contact tracing and data reporting. Meanwhile, various County departments have provided significant support around acquiring personal and protective equipment for homeless service provider partners, as well as daily food delivery to the unsheltered to prevent them from having to go to food banks or food services where many people congregate for meals.

The shelter improvement project funded by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas is an outgrowth of assessments carried out by the COVID Response Teams to better protect the health of shelter residents and staff. The shelter modifications will include installing room dividers; plexiglass for desks; hand sanitizer dispensers at all entrances; no-touch light switches, door openers and paper towel dispensers; foot pedals for turning water on/off; HEPA air filters; antibacterial UV lighting; disinfectant sprayers; and other protective equipment.

Created in 2013, DHS Housing for Health focuses on creating permanent supportive housing opportunities and providing clinical services for chronically homeless patients within the DHS system of care. With their complex medical and behavioral conditions, these patients tend to be frequent users of emergency healthcare and public safety resources, including the jail system.

DHS Housing for Health oversees and funds several homeless service programs, including more than 300 street outreach workers within Multi-Disciplinary Teams working with unsheltered individuals across the County, recuperative care and stabilization interim housing, board and care placements, access to social security benefits, and permanent housing opportunities.

DHS Housing for Health’s street outreach workers in Skid Row. Photo by Aurelia Ventura

Recognizing Essential Health Workers in the Second District

Watts Health Center Lab Lead Veronica Hernandez gears up in personal protective equipment to safely test patients for COVID-19.

Veronica Hernandez: Watts Health Center

In last week’s installment of the Second District essential health workers series, the Office of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas recognized Rashod Conkrite, who works at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center in Willowbrook. This week’s feature is dedicated to Veronica Hernandez, the Lab Lead who is working for Watts Healthcare at the Watts Health Center in Compton.

Spotlight on Watts Health Center: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Watts Healthcare quickly shifted operations to accommodate the testing needs of their communities in the Second District. Recently, Watts Healthcare partnered with the LA County Department of Public Health to expand testing at its various locations, including at its flagship site at Watts Health Center in Compton.

In addition to the non-profit community-based organization making free daily testing available, Watts Health Center continues to serve patients’ primary care and chronic illness needs while reducing their patients’ risk of exposure to COVID-19. The clinic’s expertise in implementing successful approaches to reducing health disparities supports the Second District’s efforts to eliminate the pandemic’s disproportionate impacts on communities of color.

The Watts Health Center is also known for maintaining one of the most diversified, culturally appropriate, and quality-focused workforces. One staff member in particular, Watts Health Center Lab Lead Veronica Hernandez, valiantly stepped forward to protect those who needed her the most.

Meet Veronica Hernandez:

Veronica grew up in South Central Los Angeles and has always been intrigued by the healthcare field as a child.

When Veronica is not outside testing patients for COVID-19, she is in the lab supervising and supporting her staff.

She has since spent over 30 years working in the field and contributing directly to her community. “I would like to appreciate Watts Healthcare for giving me the opportunity to be part of this historical moment in our lives to serve,” said Veronica about working in healthcare during a pandemic.

As Lab Lead, Veronica ensures that her staff has everything they need to perform their duties in a safe, successful, and professional manner, and that each patient is cared for with diligence and respect. Now, she has also assumed the role of administering COVID-19 swab tests to patients.

Veronica’s Perspective:

Bringing comfort and a smile to every patient’s face is what drives Veronica to continue this work, even when facing a perilous pandemic.

“My role is to instruct the patients about how to not spread the virus, especially for those who test positive,” said Veronica. It is also important to Veronica to educate other Spanish speakers, especially with COVID-19’s disproportionate effects on the Latinx community. “I speak Spanish, so I have to ensure that Spanish-speaking patients understand the severity of what is going on in the world right now and I demonstrate how they can take care of themselves step-by-step.”

A moment that will stay with Veronica was seeing an entire family, including a newborn, test positive for COVID-19. Unfortunately, the elderly family member succumbed to the virus, leaving the rest of the family heartbroken. As painful as these moments are, it underscores the importance of the testing Veronica conducts in efforts to keep families and communities safe. It also shows that people of all ages, even children and infants, are susceptible to COVID-19 and can spread it to more vulnerable family members.

A Typical Day for Veronica:

Before the onset of the pandemic, her duties ranged from supervising staff, payroll, and coordinating supplies and equipment. COVID-19 has dramatically impacted not only Watts Health Center operations, but also Veronica’s daily responsibilities. In addition to her largely administrative responsibilities, Veronica chose to join the front lines to conduct COVID-19 testing on-site.

Watts Health Center staff have stepped up to ensure the Watts community and beyond have access to free testing.

“The level of stress in these trying times has every one of the patients and staff on high alert,” said Veronica. “There’s no way to train for this; however, our training and compassion will see my staff and me through this pandemic.”

Due to Veronica’s willingness to respond to her call to action, her work is helping to provide care, answers, and possible solutions to patients’ health problems so that the process of healing can occur during this time of great risk and uncertainty.

Supervisor Continues Mask Donation in Koreatown in Response to COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten communities, the Second District is ramping up efforts to ensure no community is left behind in the fight against the coronavirus.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas visited St. James Episcopal Church in Koreatown where one of St. John’s Well Child and Family Mobile Clinic is performing hundreds of free COVID-19 tests daily. In a continued partnership with Operation USA and Servicon, the Supervisor distributed thousands of masks to both St. James Episcopal Church and St. John’s Mobile Clinic.

“We are proactively communicating that we should wear our masks, and that we have to sanitize our hands and maintain appropriate social distancing,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. A few weeks ago, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas in conjunction with Operation USA and Servicon also provided a similar mask donation to Southern St. Paul Church and the St. John’s Mobile Clinic stationed there.

Mask donations were distributed to the community in reusable bags. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors.

“The ultimate goal is just to continuously promote that everyone wear facial coverings and masks,” said Servicon Associate Director Susan Matt. “We need to do whatever we can to mitigate the spreading of COVID-19 and focus on hygiene.”

Access to free hygiene services is important for individuals experiencing homelessness who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. This has prompted St. James Episcopal Church to host recurring Shower of Hope events on-site as well.

“We are here because this is a location where the homeless population is being cared for by way of the weekly Shower of Hope Mobile Unit, St. John’s Mobile COVID-19 Testing Clinic, and St. James Church,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “We are here because we know this is serious. We are here because the spread of the virus can be slowed if we do our part.”

“Thank you to Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas for helping and giving, and for free masks and COVID-19 testing,” said St. James Episcopal Church Pastor John Kim who received the donation for the Koreatown church.

The Shower of Hope non-profit organization visits the church weekly to provide free showers to individuals experiencing homelessness. Shower of Hope has recently expanded their shower operations countywide in response to the pandemic as did St. John’s Mobile Clinics with their free COVID-19 testing.

Two St. John’s Clinic staff and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas at the patient intake station for the mobile clinic unit at St. James Episcopal Church. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors.

“We’re here to let people know to keep their guards up at all times when it comes to COVID-19, even if you find out that you test negative,” said St. John’s Well Child and Family Center community clinic organizer and benefits counselor Gary Poe. “Please continue to stay quarantined with the folks that you live with. We’re finding out that a lot of people are visiting each other during this time. This is really not the time to be visiting because you may have your circle where everyone has been tested—but once you visit another household, you’re exposed again.”

If you must see others in person, take the simple yet important steps to stay protected. “These masks make a difference. Make sure you get one and wear it,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.

This recent visit to yet another mobile testing site highlights the newly expanded testing capacity countywide—a 40 percent increase—with a focus on underserved areas. This expansion enables LA County to now test 55,000 residents a week.