The Alameda County Board of Supervisors said the decision came after finding out that, upon informing residents of their possible infection, many raised a list of financial concerns regarding essential needs such as food, rent and phone bills.
“Many of them just could not afford to lose two weeks’ worth of wages to quarantine and isolate,” said policy director Vanessa Cedeño.
The board unanimously approved the pilot program, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“If people are afraid to get tested or they cannot isolate safely when they’re COVID positive, then our efforts to contain the virus are not going to be as successful,” Cedeño said.
The $1,250 figure is based on surveying the county and determining the highest minimum wages in the county – found in Berkeley and Emeryville, at $15.59 and $16.30 respectively. The sum was then extrapolated to two 40-hour workweeks.
In order to be eligible, an individual must be referred by a designated clinic in one of five high-risk neighborhoods, have tested positive for the coronavirus and not be receiving unemployment benefits or paid sick leave, the Times reported. Immigration status will not be taken into account.
KPIX reported that the other details of the program are still to be finalized, but the county hopes that providing some funding to residents will encourage self-isolation in the case of infection. The program might also prompt an increase in testing where the risk of infection is much higher.
“Our testing positivity rate at our clinic is 28 percent, which shows the great need, particularly in the South Hayward, Ashland, Cherryland area,” said Andrea Schwab-Galindo, CEO of Hayward’s Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center.
The county has set aside $10 million for the project, which should cover 7,500 stipends. Alameda County hopes that money will eventually be reimbursed by the state or federal governments, according to KPIX.
The board hopes to launch the program within the next few weeks. California has confirmed more than 540,000 cases of the coronavirus, with over 10,000 deaths.