Source: Ventura County

by Kimberly Rivers

On Dec. 20, 2020, as a result of a request pursuant to the California Public Records Act (PRA) submitted by the Ventura County Reporter on Sept. 1, 2020, the county released a list of 3,868 businesses and nonprofit organizations who received $5,000 in pandemic assistance funding through the Ventura County Business Assistance Grant Program funded with federal CARES act monies, which was administered by the Ventura County Community Foundation (VCCF). 

As of Dec. 20, $19.34 million had been awarded to a wide array of businesses from restaurants and beauty salons to dentist offices, flower shops and construction supply businesses. Over 40% of the recipients were either women- and/or “minority”-owned businesses. Most of the businesses that received funding are in Ventura, Simi Valley and Oxnard. 

Source: Ventura County.

In the email releasing the information, Paul Stamper, deputy executive officer for Ventura County, stated that “124 of the recipients have been redacted from this list for public release, pursuant to government section code 6253.21, which states that information regarding family childcare providers shall not be subject to public disclosure.” He also said there are more applicants that have not been processed yet, and they are not included on the list. 

Mike Powers, CEO of Ventura County, serves on the board of directors of the VCCF. 

Source: Ventura County.

County officials had previously reported that they were working with the VCCF to get the information released. In an Oct. 23 email obtained by the VCReporter from Vanessa Bechtel, executive director of VCCF, she informs grant recipients that “VCCF has entered into an agreement with the County to delay releasing the names and addresses of the Phase I grant recipients to the County until November 25, 2020. This will give businesses concerned about the public release of their information the opportunity to return the $5,000 grant in order to avoid having their information made public.”

The county released the information on Dec. 20. State law requires a response within 10 days of the request. That response may include a request for more time to provide the requested information or otherwise respond to the request. As previously reported (“ ‘The recipient’s right to privacy’: VCCF says it need not release info to county,” Kimberly Rivers, Ventura County Reporter, Sept. 23, 2020),  the initial response from the county was on Sept. 14, stating the county was working to obtain the information from the VCCF and initially it was believed that the information was not subject to disclosure. 

The County has notified us that, based on its review of the relevant law and the County’s standards of transparency, the County is legally required to provide this information in response to a request under the Public Records Act,” stated the email from VCCF. The email states that the VCCF will be providing the information to the county and that the program may be audited “to ensure the funds were used for expenses to mitigate or respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency.”

The information released does not include certain sensitive information such as bank accounts or financial information as such information is not public record according to state law.  

Here is the entire list as of Dec. 20, 2020 of businesses and nonprofit organizations in Ventura County that have reportedly received CARES act funding through the VCCF administered program: County of Ventura Business Grant Recipients-Public Record.xlsx – Public Record

Here is the Oct. 23, 2020 email from Ventura County Community Foundation to recipients of the CARES act funds: Oct 23 VCCF email Small Bus Grant Program.