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Kern County 2020 – Year in Review

From our Supervisor

Truly, 2020 has proven to be extremely challenging due to the spread of COVID-19, which has impacted virtually every facet of our lives. The Board of Supervisors and staff at the County of Kern have worked hard to meet the challenges of this pandemic, while still providing the other essential government services that our residents and taxpayers expect and deserve.

When Governor Gavin Newsom escalated his attacks on Kern County's oil industry, I called for a special meeting in January that had an estimated attendance of nearly 2,000 people, which is the largest attendance of any meeting in the history of the Kern County Board of Supervisors, with nearly everyone attending to support and defend this vital industry. The Board unanimously expressed our support for Kern's oil industry, and we will continue to fight to protect and preserve the jobs and tax base that Kern County oil provides. It is foolish for Newsom to attempt to shut down local oil production, which is the safest and most environmentally friendly production in the world, only to import more foreign oil from countries like Saudi Arabia that have terrible human rights records and environmental protections.

In response to the homelessness crisis, that I will argue is a direct result of bad public policies pushed by liberals like Gavin Newsom in California which adversely affect everything from high housing prices to misguided criminal justice "reforms" that incentivize lawlessness and continued drug addiction, we opened a low barrier navigation center that provides a location where people experiencing homelessness can go to receive food, shelter, and wrap-around services that aid in mental health, wellness, employment, housing assistance and other services.

From the $157 million in federal CARES Act aid the County received, we provided $30 million in small business loans through our Kern Recovers forgivable loan program for 938 businesses, representing 255 industries with an average loan of $30.3k. We also offered free personal protective equipment (PPE) to local business, using the County's buying power to benefit our local businesses. This program benefitted 1,927 businesses, representing 69 industries, protecting 46,168 employees, providing 1,848,800 masks, 52,892 gallons of hand sanitizer, 510,800 pairs of gloves and 50,896 packages of sanitizing wipes. Additionally, we distributed these items through Kern County library locations that couldn't open due to the Governor's strict COVID-19 guidelines, getting our library employees back to work serving our communities.

The County of Kern partnered with Community Action Partnership of Kern to distribute nearly one million masks to low income families to control the spread of the virus. We sent Kern County employees door-to-door in the areas with the highest infection rates to provide education and information about testing and free resources.

Kern County Public Health opened 14 free testing sites throughout the County that administered more than 85,000 free COVID tests. We also sent teams to failing skilled nursing facilities, where infections were spiking, to protect our most vulnerable citizens who were unable to protect themselves.

In partnership with the City of Bakersfield, Kern County awarded 116 grants to Kern County nonprofits, totaling $1.74 million, to ensure that our nonprofits who provide valuable services to our communities are able to continue operating effectively during a year when fundraising is especially challenging.

 Despite the continued attacks on our oil industry from the Governor and majority party in Sacramento that severely impacts our revenues from property and sales tax, and the unprecedented strangling of our economy from Governor Newsom's imposed business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders, the Board of Supervisors still passed an annual budget that prioritized public safety departments, such as Sheriff and District Attorney, and provided an additional $14 million to the Kern County Fire Department ($4 million in new annual operational funding, and $10 million to invest in new equipment to ensure efficacy).

In the face of the pandemic, we have managed to reach a milestone in improving animal welfare. Kern County Animal Services, which a decade ago was one of the most notoriously high-kill animal shelters in the state, has truly achieved something special this year. Since June 1, through unprecedented support from our Kern County communities, KCAS has succeeded in finding placement for over 90 percent of all animals entering Kern County shelters. Finding placement for over 90 percent of an organization's incoming animals is the definition of a "No Kill" shelter. So, since June 1, the Kern County Animal Shelter has been "No Kill"!  Over 7,500 animals have been processed in county shelters this year, and the latter half of the year has been an incredible success in life saving efforts.  Kern County has stepped up and fostered, adopted and donated resources and engaged with pets in our community like we've never seen. It is a fantastic accomplishment by any measure, but more so considering the difficult path that Kern County has traveled to get to this point. 

I'm proud of the work our Board of Supervisors and dedicated county managers and employees accomplished this year, despite all the enormous challenges. Thank you all for your continued support. May God bless all of us in 2021. It's an honor to serve you on the Kern County Board of Supervisors.