Orange County officials Thursday announced a program that will reward restaurants that comply with COVID-19 guidelines.
A website — safedineoc.com — has been established for restaurateurs to apply for $1,000 grants to reimburse owners for money they’ve spent on personal protective equipment or cleaning supplies since the pandemic began.
The money comes from $10 million the county received in federal funding for coronavirus relief.
The grant program is for the county’s restaurants “that have had no major violations from the last health inspection,” said Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do.
“This measure will encourage further adherence” to the state’s guidelines for COVID-19, Do said.
There have been examples of restaurants in the county that have either had major outbreaks that forced a shutdown as well as other eateries that have openly flouted the governor’s orders regarding mask use and social distancing. Some restaurants repeatedly reopened when the state had ordered them closed to curb the spread of COVID-19.
County officials, however, have favored encouragement over enforcement in getting businesses to comply with mask mandates and other regulations.
“We believe voluntary participation is the best way to get the word out there to inform the public and make it a part of our lives,” Do said. “We know we’ll be living with COVID-19 and different levels of reopening for our county and community for at least the next three to six months, so this is part of our new normal at least for the time being.”
Lucy Dunn, president and CEO of the Orange County Business Council, praised the county supervisors for the program.
“When the public sees a posted piece of paper on the front doors” of the restaurants receiving grants in the program, it gives them that little extra assurance that this is a restaurant that cares about their customers and their workforce… This is a great first step,” Dunn said.
Dunn said the county has nearly 10,000 restaurants, but she was uncertain how many have had to shut down because of the pandemic.
“It’s tragic how this economy has tanked so many businesses,” Dunn said, adding the unemployment rate was about 14%.