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Pico Rivera Mayor Gustavo Camacho Steps Up to Lead Pico Rivera’s Recovery While Providing Free COVID-19 Testing

Pico Rivera Mayor Gustavo Camacho at a press conference speaking about the city’s actions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

BY TAMMYE MCDUFF

Pico Rivera, like the rest of the nation, is reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the world continues to fight the rapid spread of the coronavirus, confining many people to their homes and radically altering their way of life, some elected officials are braving the virus and helping their city, businesses and residents.

Pico Rivera Mayor Gustavo Camacho is one of those elected officials. Together with his colleagues on the city council – and city staff – he was able to mobilize after the virus hit and set priorities for the city’s quick response.

One of the biggest challenges was the stay at home order which called for the temporary elimination of the everyday freedoms we have come to expect and frequently take for granted.

Declarations were made to close down Pico Rivera to a degree that many felt was unimaginable. The city was coordinating its actions with government at all levels, federal, state, regional, as the city’s actions called for closing down restaurants and other non-essential businesses.

Camacho and the city subsequently organized food drives and distributions including one that took place on April 28 that provided food for 3,000 families in partnership with the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and the LA Food Bank.

He prioritized the health and safety of families and employees and was proactive in efforts to prevent the spread of the virus through a Response, Recover, and Thrive approach.

Knowing that testing is the best way to prevent spread, Camacho began to look for testing resources for his community but encountered a logjam with area cities aggressively asking the County of Los Angeles Health officials to establish a COVID-19 test site in their city.

Pico Rivera, through its established relationships with Alta Med Health Services, contacted the health provider and opened up one of the first Evaluation and Testing centers for COVID-19.

Testing for COVID-19 began on May 12 at the Pico Rivera Sports Arena for all residents whether they had flu like symptoms or not.

A COVID-19 testing site at Pico River Sports Arena, the test was free for all residents whether they had flu like symptoms or not.

 

Camacho recognized that more testing was required for the city to open up its local economy so he  leveraged his network and partnered with U.S. Health Fairs which led to Pico Rivera being the second city in Los Angeles County to offer free testing for every local resident at no cost to the city.

In addition to this partnership, city officials are working on providing antibody testing as soon as the service is rolled out.

Capturing state and federal funds

Since the city shut down, some businesses and families have continued to receive support from the federal and state government, while Pico Rivera staff continues researching and facilitating access and information for businesses and residents in need.

However, cities with populations under 500,000 have only received Community Development Block Grants (CDBG).  Pico Rivera, with a population of 65,000 residents, has only received $365,000 for COVID-19 related expenses.

As State and Congressional officials continue to push for federal funding for smaller cities and organizations such as the League of California Cities and the California Contract Cities Association, Pico Rivera continues to advocate for legislation that can help sustain the wellbeing of local governments to be able to provide the critical services such as police and fire.

Camacho and city staff have begun to develop an Economic and Community Recovery Plan to better position the city to be ready when the economy opens back up under a phased plan.

“This new economy will be a more resilient economy where it pushes private business and local government to rethink and repurpose their resources and services.  Getting local economies kick started will be difficult so starting now, not tomorrow we need to develop an economic recovery plan will be crucial to recovery. The traditional Economic Development models do not apply today during this COVID-19 era. The paradigm has shifted, and cities need to adapt to them.  Cities need to develop their own Economic and Community Recovery Plan today, not tomorrow.”

 

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