Fresno · Highlight

Arambula’s tiff over $5mil COVID-19 spending proposal hits close to home

Friday’s public spat between State Asm. Joaquin Arambula (D–Fresno) and Fresno County Supervisors appears to be a boiling point in a snap push to outsource the County’s coronavirus response.

Underneath it all is a proposal to spend between $4 and 5 million in Federal coronavirus relief funds to hire 17 local nonprofits to supplement contact tracing efforts – one of which is particularly close to Arambula.

Submitted to Fresno County’s Department of Public Health just one day before the Fourth of July holiday, the various nonprofits sought to have the proposal approved by the Board of Supervisors at its most recent meeting – July 7.

The rushed timetable, which equated to vetting $5 million in spending in the course of a single workday, was a nonstarter for Fresno County officials.

The plan is still under vetting by the Fresno County Department of Public Health.

Among the nonprofits vying for Fresno County coronavirus dollars is GO Public Schools Fresno, a nonprofit aimed at reforming K-12 schooling within Fresno Unified School District and a regular adversary of the Fresno Teachers Association.

Diego Arambula, a brother of the emergency room doctor turned two-term legislator, is the former executive director of GO Public Schools Fresno.

Today, he serves on GO Public Schools’ Board of Directors – dubbed its Leadership Council.

A copy of the proposal submitted on behalf of 17 nonprofits – led by Fresno Building Healthy Communities – details that $4 million would be spent hiring 105 additional contact tracers for coronavirus.

They would also hire 23 community health workers who would delve into community outreach related to coronavirus.

An additional $1 million sum would be set aside for “county community-specific partners.”

The proposal calls for an “Immigrant and Refugee COVID-19 Response Team” comprised of 70 contact tracers and nearly all of the community health workers to communicate about the dangers of coronavirus and mitigate spread in heavily-impacted rural areas of Fresno County.

It also calls for an “African American COVID-19 Emergency Response Team,” which would utilize 35 contact tracers and an unspecified number of community health workers.

Under the proposal, a number of nonprofits, including GO Public Schools Fresno, would be tasked with creating curriculum to instruct Community Health Workers to provide lay COVID-19 health advice (otherwise known as the promotora model) and contact tracing skills.

The curriculum would also train community health workers to direct Fresno County residents to a bevy of services indirectly tied to the pandemic – including food, shelter, and financial assistance, mental health resources, and immigration assistance.

Fresno County sources told The Sun that the estimated share of funds dedicated for GO Public Schools Fresno under the proposal was tabbed at $750,000.

The nine-page proposal specifies that each of the more than dozen nonprofits responsible for participating in the immigrant coronavirus response team would assess 15 percent of costs as indirect costs “for contract management,” invoice processing, data reporting, and human resources expenses.

Meanwhile, the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission – tasked with managing the African American response team under the proposal – would assess a slimmed-down 10 percent fee for its contract management.

Alex Tavlian
Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.