Irvine Creates Local Business Support Program From $5 Million in Federal CARES Act Funds to Help Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19

(Irvine, CA) — At a special meeting on May 29, the Irvine City Council voted to establish a Local Business Support Program to provide financial support to small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Irvine has received close to $5 million for COVID-19 related grants for the City’s small business community from the federal CARES Act, distributed to Irvine by the County of Orange.

“Thank you to our outstanding Orange County Congressional delegation — Katie Porter CA-45, Harley Rouda CA-48, Lou Correa CA-46, Mike Levin CD-49, Gil Cisneros CA-39, Alan Lowenthal CA-37, and Linda Sanchez CA-38 — for your hard work in bringing these crucial federal dollars back to Orange County.” Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox said.

“We are very happy to be able to use these federal funds to help our small businesses begin to recover from the economic shock of COVID-19.”

The program will allow Irvine-based small businesses that meet the following criteria to apply for one-time grants of $10,000.

To qualify, businesses must:

  • Have 25 or fewer employees
  • Have an active Irvine business license at the minimum of one year
  • Demonstrate a financial impact due to COVID-19, and
  • Have reopened or are ready to reopen, meeting guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, the State and Orange County.

An estimated 500 businesses will be able to receive relief funds. Sixty percent ($3 million) of the $5 million City allocation will be directed to businesses that generate taxable retail sales. The other forty percent ($2 million) will be available to other small businesses with 25 or fewer employees.

Applications will be accepted for 30 days beginning next week, with grant funding awarded quickly on a first-come, first-served basis. Funds could be used to meet eligible businesses’ working capital needs such as payroll or operating expenses.

Businesses will be asked to provide a budget reflecting the proposed use of grant funds, and will be required to submit a post-expense report detailing how the funding was actually utilized.

“I’m glad we’ll be able to provide some basic recovery to our small businesses, which employ so many people who have been hit hard by the economic consequences of the quarantine, including many people who are self-employed” Councilmember Fox said. “I wish it could be more.”

“Now we need to get the U.S. Senate to pass and the President to sign the federal Heroes Act, already passed by the House of Representatives, which would give $2.7 billion in federal recovery funds to Orange County, so that our first responders, front-line health care workers, teachers, and working families will get the economic help they need and deserve.” Fox added.

More information and a grant application will be available at cityofirvine.org this week.

Be Prepared: Create a COVID-19 Family Emergency Plan!


My son, Max Fox, is a college student at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, where he is studying firefighting and emergency management, and where he also serves as an EMT and a member of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Hazardous Materials Response Team.

Since his school is closed, he’s back home in Irvine for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. I asked him what he thought about the Orange County Emergency Operations Center’s recommendation for families to create a COVID-19 Family Emergency Plan.

Here’s what Max wrote:

“As Californians, there are certain emergencies that we should all be prepared for: earthquakes, fire, and flood.  We should already have Family Emergency Plans for these all too common occurrences.

Family Emergency Plans should include (1) an emergency family communication plan in case of separation, (2) consideration of the special needs of each member of your household (such as medications or medical equipment), and (3) plans for your most important documents (such as identification and insurance).

Documents you should consider including as part of your Family Emergency Plan are:

  • A copy of each family member’s driver’s license and passport
  • Each family member’s Social Security card or number
  • A copy of each family member’s birth certificate
  • A copy of everyone’s medical records and list of vaccinations, including your pet’s
  • Authorization for treatment
  • Property titles for your car and home
  • All of your bank, credit card and investment account numbers and corresponding customer service telephone numbers
  • Health insurance and life insurance account information
  • Photographs or videos of all of your property to make potential insurance claims easier
  • Wills, as well as living wills and a power of attorney
  • Your latest tax return
  • Your marriage certificate
  • Adoption and citizenship papers
  • Military records
  • Medications and eyeglass prescriptions
  • Important files backed up on an external hard-drive
  • Copies of your favorite family photographs

A Family Emergency Plan for the current COVID-19 pandemic should incorporate many of the same features.

The Orange County’s Emergency Operations Center points out that plans should include lists of other trusted adults who are not part of our high risk population and able to look after your children should a parent become sick and/or hospitalized.

People with children — or people taking care of seniors — should also make a list that has everything the caregiver should know about the children and/or seniors, their allergies, any medical documentation that may be needed, as well as written authorizations for treatment.

Plans should also include provisions for care of your pets, if you are not able to leave them home or continue to care for them.

In an emergency, it is very easy to forget something, so an important part of making your plan should also include making a pre-prepared “go-bag” (a bag of stuff needed in an emergency that is already pack with everything you need). An emergency go-bag might include:

  • At least three days of water for every member of the family
  • Non-perishable food options, like nuts, canned goods and granola bars
  • Changes of clothing and footwear for each member of the family
  • Sleeping bags or rolled blankets
  • First-aid kit supplies
  • Emergency supplies, such as a battery-operated radio, a flashlight with extra batteries, duct tape, plastic bags, water purification tablets, local maps and a compass, aluminum foil, matches and a can opener
  • Basic tools, like pliers, a wrench, an axe and a utility knife
  • Personal care items such as toilet paper, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, feminine products, extra eyeglasses and contact lens solution
  • Money, including a few personal checks.

I hope no one will have to use their plan, but it is always better to have a plan and go-bag and not need it, then it is to need a plan and go-bag but not have them.

Please stay safe and help one another, remember to wash your hands, and maintain social distancing.

We’re all in this together.”

For links to up-to-date COVID-19 Resources and Information, click HERE.

Watch Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy on Leadership: “Building a Mission-Driven Culture”

One of the accomplishments I’m most proud of as a public official is advocating as a member of the board of directors of the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) for the selection of Brian Fennessy as our new Fire Chief.

OCFA Chief Brian Fennessy is one of the nation’s most respected leaders in the crucial field of emergency management.

Recently, Fire Chief Fennessy was invited by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to present his perspective on emergency management leadership to a national audience.

In his talk, titled “Building a Mission-Driven Culture,” Chief Fennessy shares the values of a mission-driven culture and the importance of intent-based leadership in emergency management.

Chief Fennessy also discusses his path to leadership and why he firmly believes that a mission-driven culture is critical to organizational success in times of chaos and during daily operations.

All of us involved in emergency response and management — first responders, public officials, citizen volunteers — will benefit from the wisdom and experience of OCFA Chief Brian Fennessy in this extremely timely talk.

Watch Chief Fennessy’s FEMA PrepTalk “Building a Mission-Driven Culture” here:

June is PTSD Awareness Month: Tell Your State Legislators to Support PTDS Care for Police and Firefighters!

June is PTSD Awareness Month.

PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and is a condition that impacts many military veterans and first responders, such as police and firefighters.

PTSD can occur when someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic event.  This condition wasn’t always understood properly by the medical or military community. “Shell shock” and “battle fatigue” or “combat fatigue” were earlier attempts to define and understand the symptoms of PTSD.

Post-traumatic stress disorder and those who suffer from it were often maligned and stigmatized in popular culture after the Vietnam War, and many films and television shows featured antagonists or unsympathetic characters suffering from “Vietnam flashbacks” or other post-combat issues.

This misunderstanding of PTSD slowly began to change in 1980 when it was recognized as a specific condition with identifiable symptoms. As a result, since that time Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Today, the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are better understood, treatable, and recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs as a service-connected condition.

Now we are recognizing that because of the nature of their jobs, police and firefighters, like military combat veterans, are routinely exposed to traumatic events that can lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. For this reason, police and firefighters are twice as likely as the general population to experience PTSD.

Currently, however, it is often difficult for police and firefighters in California to receive the treatment that they need and deserve.

New legislation — SB 542 — would provide that in the case of certain state and local firefighting personnel and peace officers, the term “injury” also includes a mental health condition or mental disability that results in a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress or mental health disorder that develops or manifests itself during a period in which the firefighter or peace officer is in the service of the department or unit.

This new legislation recognizes that “Today, a firefighter’s and law enforcement officer’s occupational stress is heightened in the face of California’s ‘new normal’ in which wildland and wildland-urban interface fires continue to annually increase as hot, dry, and wind-whipped conditions persist” and that “Last year’s fire storms were a brutal reminder of the ferocity of wildfires and how all too often on-duty firefighters and law enforcement officers incur the stress of witnessing victims flee while worrying about whether their own homes, and the safety of their families and neighbors, are threatened. When on duty, firefighters and law enforcement officers endure the added pain of driving through wreckage, seeing destroyed homes, or worse, the skeletal remains of family, friends, and neighbors burned to ash while not being able to stop to provide assistance or comfort.”

The legislation further recognizes that “While the cumulative impacts of these aggressive, deadly events are taking their toll, our firefighters and law enforcement officers continue to stand up to human-caused devastation and nature’s fury, but they are physically and emotionally exhausted” and that “California has a responsibility to ensure that its fire and law enforcement agencies are equipped with the tools necessary to assist their personnel in mitigating the occupational stress experienced as a result of performing their job duties and protecting the public.”

For these reasons, the intent of the legislation to “recogniz[e] the hazards and resulting trauma of these occupations and provide treatment and support for these public servants through presumptive care to our firefighters and law enforcement officers.”

As the daughter of a police officer and the mother of a firefighter, I strongly support SB 542 and it’s goal of providing treatment for police and firefighters suffering from service-related PTSD.

I urge everyone in California to contact their representatives in both the State Senate and the State Assembly to urge them to Vote Yes on SB 542!

Operation “Southern Wind” — Our First Responders Train for a “Dirty Bomb” Terrorist Attack

This week, as a board member of the Orange County Fire Authority, I had the amazing opportunity to observe the 2019 Urban Search and Rescue Multi-Task Force Mobilization Exercise “Southern Wind” at the Del Valle Regional Training Center in Castaic, California, in which our first responders trained to deal with a “dirty bomb” terrorist attack.

The scenario was that a vehicle containing a “dirty bomb” had exploded, spreading radioactive contamination and toxic smoke across a wide area and demolishing a mall and a hospital, with many fatalities and injured victims, as well as many people trapped in the rubble.

The participating agencies included the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), Cal Trans, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Branch, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol, the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), California US&R Task Force 5 (CA-TF5) from OCFA, California US&R Task Force 6 (CA-TF6) from the Riverside Fire Department, California US&R Task Force 8 from the San Diego Fire Department, and the HazMat Task Force from the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

The goal of the exercise was to demonstrate the ability of Southern California-based local, state, and federal US&R Task Forces to meet FEMA Operational Readiness Exercise Evaluation Program requirements, and demonstrate Multi-Task Force cooperation in response to an incident involving a Radiological Dispersal Device.

The overall Incident Commander, and most of the section commanders, were with the Orange County Fire Authority.

Among the actions taken were decontamination and securing of the area, searching for victims (including using search dogs), and extraction of victims from the rubble (including using cranes to lift debris and motor vehicles).

Due to the danger of exposure to radiation, the crews needed to rotate frequently.

My very helpful and patient “guide” during the exercise was OCFA US&R Coordinator Captain Richard Ventura.

Also taking time to keep me informed was OCFA Captain Wendy Norwood, whose normal duty station is OCFA Fire Station 27 in Portola Springs.

I was tremendously impressed by the smoothness and thoroughness of the operation, the coordination and cooperation among the different agencies, the amazing level of skills demonstrated, and the dedication of all the participants.

I was also extremely proud of the leadership role taken by our own Orange County Fire Authority.

Thank you to all our dedicated first responders for continually training to keep us safe!

Here are some more of the photos and videos I took during the exercise: