Fresno spent nearly $100mil during the heat of coronavirus pandemic. Here’s where it went.

During the worst months of the coronavirus pandemic, California’s fifth-largest city spent tens of millions on various services. So where did it go?

How was all of Fresno’s $92.8 million CARES Act money spent over the last year? 

The public received a detailed breakdown at the City Council meeting last week, as the city’s finance department presented the specifics to the Council. 


After the Federal CARES Act was signed into law on March 27 last year, the city received its lump sum on April 22, and the City Council approved a spending plan on June 30. 

So far, $89 million has been spent – 96 percent of the total – while the remaining funds will be used by the end of the year. 

The City Council split money between city departments ($74.7 million) and various community based organizations ($14.4 million).

Out of the money that was directed to city departments, $54 million went directly to covering the salaries for public safety departments as the city found itself in a $32 million budget shortfall due to the pandemic:

  • $36.5 million to the police department
  • $16.3 million to the fire department
  • $1.3 million to the city attorney’s office for the code enforcement officers

Here’s a look at how much the top 10 city departments received:

  • Police department: $36.7 million
  • Fire department: $16.8 million
  • Finance (including money for community based organizations): $13.8 million
  • General City Purpose (including money for community based organizations): $6.5 million
  • Public works: $3.9 million
  • PARCS: $2.9 million
  • Information Services Department: $2.9 million
  • Planning and Development: $1.8 million
  • City Attorney: $1.4 million
  • Department of Public Utilities: $900,000

Outside of salary reimbursement, the city used various nonprofit organizations to focus on ventures such as COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, housing grants, food assistance, homelessness projects and small business grants, among others. 

The city gave UCSF Fresno $2.3 million for its Mobile HeaL COVID-19 Testing and Health Screening Program, which provided three mobile sites across southwest, southeast and central Fresno.

Those sites administered 23,587 tests in total, averaging the cost at $496 per test.

Fresno Building Healthy Communities received $1 million to conduct contact tracing and quarantine support.

The nonprofit contact traced 1,246 people, which cost an average of $393 per person, and provided 456 people with quarantine support, costing $1,129 per person. 

North Fresno Primary Care received $520,000 to administer 5,692 COVID-19 tests. 

Six nonprofits were given a total of $1.9 million for residential housing retention grants.

There were 1,128 housing grants approved through a combination of CARES money and the General Fund. 

Seven different organizations received a combined $3.1 million for food assistance programs. That resulted in 115,493 food boxes distributed, serving 690,344 people. 

Homelessness projects totaled nearly $3.4 million, which included the city’s $2.8 million purchase of the Travel Inn, located west of Highway 99 north of Belmont Ave.

The Marjaree Mason Center received the other $500,000 and served 192 people over 17,644 combined nights of provided housing and 47,808 meals.

The average cost per person totaled $2,702. 

The city handed out $5.3 million in small business grants, averaging $6,626 for 415 businesses. 

The Central Valley Children’s Support Network received $1.8 million to provide childcare vouchers to essential workers and vulnerable populations.

In total, 160 families were served (273 children), and the vouchers cost $11,2020 per family.

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