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County Partners Provide Homeless Support Amidst the Pandemic

Posted: May 15, 2020

MERCED COUNTY, CA –In an effort to protect vulnerable homeless individuals from COVID-19 and slow the spread of the virus in our communities, 98 homeless individuals have been sheltered in hotel rooms in Merced County. This statewide initiative is known as “Project Room Key.”


Merced County allocated $3.5 million in funding to address housing, health care, toiletries and food needs for unsheltered individuals who test positive for COVID-19. In addition, services are available to those who have symptoms and require isolation based on medical advice, and those that are medically vulnerable and highly susceptible to the virus. The funding, originally allocated to address homelessness, was made available through a partnership between the Merced County Continuum of Care, Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, Human Services Agency and funds provided by state and federal COVID-19 response allocations. No General Fund dollars are included in this effort.


In addition to the nearly 100 individuals housed, staff with the Mass Care and Shelter Branch and community organizations have contacted more than 300 homeless individuals to provide immediate services, including food and other essential items and services.


Housing and health care services are provided on a priority basis, but food and toiletries are available to all.

The program was coordinated locally by the Merced County Human Services Agency, the Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Department, Merced County Department of Public Health, and community partners comprised of faith-based and non-profit organizations.


“We are taking a multi-agency approach to engaging with unsheltered homeless individuals and identifying those who need services and medical follow-ups due to COVID-19,” said Yvonnia Brown, Director of the Merced County Human Services Agency. “These efforts will not only provide much needed assistance to those individuals, it will also help contain the spread of COVID-19 within the community at large.”


“We are excited about being a part of a program that is providing basic needs for individuals with some of the greatest need,” said Dr. Rebecca Nanyonjo-Kemp, Director of the Merced County Department of Public Health. “We care about the health and safety of all residents, including the most vulnerable in our community. This project highlights how Merced County is advocating for the well-being of homeless individuals by providing some of the most basic vital needs. It is our hope that this project will be successful in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”


Please check the Department’s webpage at www.countyofmerced.com/coronavirus for the most-up-to date information about the current cases in Merced County.


For general information pertaining to COVID-19, please contact the Merced County Public Health Department information line at 209-381-1180 (English, Spanish, Hmong).

Merced Airport receives grant

Posted: April 23, 2020

The Federal Aviation Administration has announced it revised the amount of funding the Merced Regional Airport will receive from the CARES Act to $3,364,156.


“We appreciate the funding because it allows us to complete Airport projects we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish without the grant,” said City Manager Steve Carrigan. “The money will sustain existing jobs and bring new investment to the local economy as we improve the airport and quality of services provided.”


The federal grant will be used to maintain existing airport services and allow for additional resources to make airport terminal improvements, resurface the terminal parking lots, perform taxiway crack and slurry seal projects and replace the airport security camera system, Carrigan said.


Our aviation industry is just one of many suffering profound economic losses during this health crisis,” said Congressman Jim Costa. “These grants will help make up for the reduction in business operations and help keep workers from losing their jobs.”


“We want to thank Rep. Jim Costa, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Kamala Harris for helping securing this funding during these difficult times,” said Mayor Mike Murphy. “We will put this money to good use while operating and managing our airport.”


“This grant will put many local residents to work as we move out of the current crisis,” he said.


“This funding will not only help the Airport, but also local businesses that will be providing goods and services for the projects that will improve our facility,” said Economic Development Director Frank Quintero, who oversees the Airport’s operations.


Airport Manager Martin Pehl said, “This grant will greatly assist the Airport, and its operations, and benefit the public and the aviation community.”


Pehl said among the projects the grant would be used for include refurbishing  the terminal building and parking lot, improving the runway and taxiway and addressing other parts of the airport’s master plan.


The CARES Act is a more than $2 trillion economic relief package, with $10 billion allocated for airport improvement grants. The grants will provide economic relief to airports around the country affected by the COVID-19 crisis.


U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said, “This $10 billion in emergency resources will help fund the continued operations of our nation’s airports during this crisis and save workers’ jobs.”

County Opens Mobile COVID-19 Specimen Collection Sites

Sites being stood up are part of a partnership between California and OptumServe

MERCED COUNTY, CA -- Following Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent announcement to add more than 80 community testing sites across the state focused on underserved communities, Merced County will launch an additional testing site in the City of Merced.


The new testing site is projected to open on April 30, 2020. This new site is one of 80 testing sites powered through a partnership with OptumServe, the federal government health services business of Optum, a leading health services innovation company.


Testing will be by appointment only. Additional information will be released when appointments become available.

“This testing site will help Merced County dramatically increase testing needs for individuals who have had limited access to COVID-19 tests up until now,” said Dr. Rebecca Nanyonjo-Kemp, Director of Public Health for Merced County “We’re thrilled to partner with the state and OptumServe to help ensure that our communities are healthy, while also helping meet California’s testing goals.”


To determine where to locate new testing sites, the state looked at both rural and urban areas where Californians would have to travel between 30 and 60 minutes to reach an existing testing site or hospital. That information was then evaluated based on underserved populations so residents have access to testing regardless of socioeconomic status.


OptumServe has extensive expertise in rapidly deploying and setting up health care services and has worked closely with the military under the leadership of former Army Surgeon General and retired Lieutenant General Patty Horoho, RN.


“OptumServe is honored to assist California in expanding COVID-19 testing for residents,” said Patty Horoho, CEO of OptumServe. “We are bringing our full commitment and capabilities to serve Californians, including extensive experience conducting large community health events.”


“Thanks to Merced County and to OptumServe for the collaboration to make these testing sites possible,” said Charity Dean, M.D., Assistant Director of the California Department of Public Health. “We’re working together as part of the state’s Testing Task Force to ensure regions with the greatest need have access to tests, and these sites are going to be a major component in reaching our testing goals.”


More Information: Governor Newsom announcement to expand community testing in underserved areas



Merced County Department of Public Health website www.countyofmerced.com/coronavirus

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Merced College Offers Students Free Immigration Legal Services

MERCED, Calif.— The Merced Community College District has been selected to participate in a pilot project through a partnership with the California Department of Social Services, the Foundation for California Community Colleges and the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office to provide free immigration legal services. The UFW Foundation has partnered with Merced College to provide immigration legal services starting in May 2020 through October 2021. Over the course of the next year and a half, the Community College Immigration Legal Services Project will provide free immigration legal services, including education and outreach services, to current students, staff, and faculty on California community college campuses statewide.


“This is an important partnership for Merced College as we serve a large population of Dreamers,” said Ivan Peña, Dean of Student Equity.  “The need for immigration legal services was identified as one of the top three needs by this student population.  Such investment can prevent students from dropping out as a consequence of not finding adequate solutions to their immigration legal issues.  We are looking forward to being a part of the solution for our most impacted students.”

A recent study found that in Southeast and East Merced County, there are an estimated 61,000 undocumented residents (Marcelli & Pastor, 2015).  Merced College looks to continue working with our community and expand our efforts to provide pathways to attain a higher education and the economic benefits that come with attaining a degree.  Empowering students with accurate and current information about immigration policy and increasing their access to legal representation by a qualified provider will allow them to focus on and advance their educational and career goals.


Students can schedule an appointment with a UFW Foundation attorney/accredited representative, through an online portal, for a comprehensive review of their immigration history and possible immigration remedies.  Starting on Tuesday, May 5th, appointments will be available the first Tuesday of every month and the third Wednesday of every month from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.


For more information visit our Merced College Student Equity webpage (www.mccd.edu/offices/student-equity/) or call (209) 384-6067.


For more information about this release, contact the Office of External Relations at mcnews@mccd.eduor (209) 381-6176.

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