Los Angeles enacts new lockdown, report says county spent millions of CARES Act funds on PR firms

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Los Angeles County officials announced Friday a new lockdown that bans most public and private gatherings amid a global surge of coronavirus cases.

Reacting to the new stay-at-home order, KTTV-TV reporter Bill Melugin reminded area residents that LA officials used some of the money they received from the CARES Act, which was meant to help struggling businesses and residents, on “remarkably ineffective PR firms.”

“A reminder that L.A. County is using some of the federal CARES Act money it receives, money that should be going to restaurants @lapublichealth just closed, to instead pay for portions of their remarkably ineffective PR firms, now costing $2.9 million,” Melugin said.

What about the lockdown?

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced that, beginning Monday Nov. 30, all public and private gatherings will be prohibited through Dec. 20. Only members of the same household will be permitted to gather together during the lockdown, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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“Residents are advised to stay home as much as possible and always wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when they are outside their household and around others,” the health department said.

Protests and religious activities are exempt from the order.

More from the LA Times:

[The lockdown order] imposes new occupancy limits on businesses, such as personal care and retail, but does not close them. Beaches, trails and parks will remain open, but gatherings of people from more than one household at those sites are banned.
The announcement came just two days after restaurants in much of L.A. County were ordered to suspend outdoor dining. That decision sparked a backlash from restaurant owners and some elected officials, who called the rules too punishing for the already struggling industry.

What about CARES Act spending?

According to KTTV, Los Angeles County recently extended agreements with two PR firms — Mercury Public Affairs and Fraser Communications — for “emergency COVID-19 communications assistance.”

Part of the job the PR firms have been tasked with is “recruiting celebrity influencers” to promote COVID news on social media.

More from KTTV:

The County is now paying both firms a total of $2.9 million, a 650% increase from when the contracts were first signed seven months ago, and according to Fraser’s contract, L.A. County is using federal CARES Act money to offset the cost of the contract through the end of 2020. County funds will pay for it through 2021.

Los Angeles County entered into business with the PR firms “despite the fact that the county has a fully staffed county communications team,” KTTV noted.

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