Updated: May 12
Los Banos Talk
On May 1, 2021 at 10 am, Senator Anna Caballero, who represents the 12th District of California held an open roundtable discussion at the Los Banos Chamber of Commerce office at 932 6th St. Los Banos. The Senator primarily came to spread the word and raise awareness around SB 87. Senator Caballero introduced SB 87, which added nearly 2.1 Billion dollars to the California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program. She wanted small business owners to understand that there is still approximately 6 million dollars left, and businesses can receive between $5,000 and $25,000 as a grant, which means they do not pay it back. Former Los Banos Mayor Mike Villalta asked at the meeting, "if local businesses apply for this grant and are eligible are they guaranteed to get the money?", to which the Senator said yes. Round 6 began Wednesday April 28th at 9am and will end Tuesday May 4th at 5pm. Notifications will begin Friday, May 7th. Currently waitlisted businesses and nonprofits that did not receive funds in Rounds 1,2,3,4 or 5 will be eligible for this grant as well as new eligible applicants. Businesses that have already applied in the past and were not selected to receive grants in Rounds 1-5 will be automatically moved to round 6 and do not need to re-apply. In order to apply visit https://CaReliefGrant.com and you can also get assistance by phone by calling (888) 612-4370 between 7am and the 5pm deadline on May 4th.
Members of the public could have attended the event via zoom, however no one did. Due to COVID-19, the in-person meeting was limited to 10 people which consisted of local news reporters and public officials. City Councilman Kenneth Lambert, Mayor Tom Faria, Acting City Manager Gary Birizee ,Former Mayor Mike Villalta, Gene Lieb, Tony Dutra, and Justin Collins to name a few. After informorming the group about the grants available through SB 87, the conversation turned towards homeless relief efforts. Mayor Tom Faria spoke of a grant the CIty is trying to secure in order to place several from the local encampment into a motel space. The Senator spoke about the COC (Continuem of Care), and how it lacks transparency and believes that some of the efforts to help the homeless are less effective than they should be due to conflicts of interests of board members, and that its a serious issue that needs to be addressed. She said that members of the organization award money to their own relief funds and programs and that there is no oversight, conflict of interest policy, and that even the Brown Act, doesn't apply to it. Justin Collins spoke about the need for state subsidies for low income housing to incentivize builders to build low income housing. He explained that many of the homeless he meet even have jobs but can't afford rent or find a landlord to accept them due to the housing shortage making the market overly competitive and landlords often want tenants to earn three times the rent, have two months deposit up front, and at least one year of job history and decent credit. He expressed that the lack of affordable housing in California is partially to blame for the homeless crisis and that due to job losses from COVID-19 there is a growing population of families that are experiencing homeless that under normal circumstances would probably not. To which the Senator said she agreed and is "working on something" to help with affordable housing.
After the roundtable meeting, Mayor Tom Faria took the Senator on a brief tour of downtown Los Banos consisting of a stop at Los Banos Drug, which he described as being perhaps the last soda fountain in California and Woolgrowers Restaurant, which serves Basque food and is over 100 years old.
Here are two unedited clips from the roundtable
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