Category Archives: Coronavirus

Workforce Development Board secures programs to address barriers to employment and the COVID-19 Pandemic’s impact

The Workforce Development Board of Ventura County (WDB) was awarded a $315,000 grant by the State of California Employment Development Department to implement a National Dislocated Worker Grant (NDWG) to address the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the Ventura County workforce.

The funding will aid Ventura County’s response to COVID-19 by providing opportunities for employment and training services to individuals who are unemployed or underemployed as a result of the pandemic and who are unlikely to return to work in their previous occupations.  Services include training and job placement in in-demand careers, especially those where there is an increased need due to the impact of COVID-19.

The funding will also enable the WDB to provide applicant referrals to local employers, job placement assistance in high-demand sectors, job readiness workshops to build soft skills, and help with career planning through individual employment plans and online career workshops.

The WDB of Ventura County is a partner of America’s Job Center of California network.  Individuals interested in receiving employment assistance should register with America’s Job Center of California by calling 805-204-5186 or emailing AJCC-VenturaCounty@ventura.org.  For those with limited hearing or speaking, dial 711 to reach the California Relay Service (CRS). America’s Job Center of California offers no-fee employment services and training resources and will guide applicants through the registration process.

Additionally, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier this year, the WDB of Ventura County applied for workplace grants as soon as they became available.  In April, the WDB was awarded a $450,000 grant through the Employment Development Department’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act 25% Dislocated Worker Funds. Funds went to support services that helped individuals impacted by COVID-19. These included providing equipment necessary to telework and assistance with housing, utilities, childcare, and transportation.

In June, the California Workforce Development Board (CWDB) awarded $462,506 to Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties, with Ventura WDB as the lead support of the SB1 High Road Construction Careers initiative. The initiative’s purpose is to advance careers in the building and construction trades as a reliable career pathway for disadvantaged Californians.

WDB coordinates its response to COVID 19 with the Economic Development Collaborative (EDC), local business organizations, counties, cities, and chambers. For up-to-date business recovery and closure/opening information, go to the EDC website:  https://edcollaborative.com/covid19. For more on the Workforce Development Board of Ventura County, go to http://workforceventuracounty.org.

Hospital frontline health care staff among first to receive COVID-19 Vaccine

Health care workers at St. John’s Regional Medical Center (SJRMC) and St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital (SJPVH), members of Dignity Health Central Coast, are among the first to receive the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine.

St. John’s will administer the first dose of the two-dose vaccine to several hundred essential health care workers and physicians. Two doses of the recently FDA approved Pfizer vaccine in persons aged 16 years and older are necessary for the vaccine to be effective, and will be administered three weeks apart.

“We remain committed to the health and safety of our patients, staff, and community. While we understand that vaccine distribution will be a process, today we are one step closer to a safer future,” said Darren W. Lee, President and CEO of St. John’s Regional Medical Center and St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital. “As we move forward, we continue to collaborate with our local and state health departments to acquire additional doses for distribution.”

In preparation for the COVID-19 vaccine, Dignity Health Central Coast hospitals acquired the necessary equipment to store and administer the vaccine, train staff, and develop relevant processes and procedures.

“We have seen first-hand in the devastating impact of the coronavirus on our communities and across the world,” said Raj Bhatia, MD, Medical Director of the Intensivist Program and the Critical Care Unit at St. John’s Regional Medical Center and St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital. “The Pfizer vaccine gives us great hope. This vaccine, along with the appropriate personal protective equipment, will help keep our health care teams safe as they continue to deliver care to COVID-19 positive patients.”

In accordance with federal and state guidelines, initial supplies of vaccines are reserved for frontline workers including, health care workers, first responders and those at highest risk. While the vaccine is now available at our facilities, employees are encouraged but not required to receive the vaccine.

Although the vaccine is now available to some essential staff members, we must remain vigilant and continue to follow CDC guidelines – including wearing a mask, frequent hand hygiene, and social distancing.

Dignity Health St. John’s will continue to share vaccination updates as they become available. For more information, visit: CDC.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/faq.html.

Ventura County now offering on-site COVID testing

The Testing Trailer can come to your business.

Mobile testing team onsite testing requirements

Business or organization must have at least 100 people that would like to get tested for the COVID-19 virus.

Outdoor location must include 100′ x 50′ open space suitable for parking a truck and 28′ trailer for our testing team.

Host location must provide access to restroom facilities within 200′ walking distance of the testing location.

Set up begins one hour before opening for testing.

COVID-19 testing is offered at high volume sites 7 days a week.

The County of Ventura’s new Mobile COVID-19 Testing Trailer can be requested at the following link: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/covid-testing.

Vol. 14, No. 06 – Dec 16 – Dec 29, 2020 – The Pet Page

∙After four years of no first pet at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Biden and his wife will move in with a pair of German shepherds, Champ and Major. The Bidens got Champ as a puppy in 2008, shortly before they moved into the vice president’s official residence at the Naval Observatory.

∙Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center (SPARC) is expanding its community outreach program to support the care and wellbeing of animals living within the City of Santa Paula and throughout the County of Ventura. The new pet pantry, appropriately named “Food FUR All”, launched as a Free Pet Food Drive on Saturday, December 12. The launch was held at the Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center located at 705 E. Santa Barbara Street, Santa Paula. Food FUR All was created to provide pet owners who may be financially stressed or simply need a helping hand, especially during such trying times. One of the primary goals of the program is to reduce the number of pet owners who are fighting making the agonizing decision to surrender their pet simply because they cannot afford to feed their pets; that is a false choice that SPARC hopes to end with our new pet food pantry.

In one ASPCA study, 40% of low-income pet owners surrendering an animal to a shelter said they would have kept their pet if they’d had access to affordable vet care, and 30% said the same if they could have gotten free or low-cost pet food.

The shelter cannot provide this service without help from the community. SPARC is seeking generous donors who can donate unopened food or make a financial contribution and those interested in making a financial investment in SPARC’s future pet retention program to keep pets in their homes. The shelter is also seeking those interested in participating on a volunteer basis. Please contact the shelter directly at 805- 525 8609. Donations can be dropped off at the animal shelter any time between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.∙∙

∙ The holidays are here and the Humane Society of Ventura County (HSVC) is ready to spread cheer! They are disappointed cannot host annual Santa Paws Fundraiser due to COVID-19. The shelter will be offering a Selfie Holiday Photo Booth complete with holiday sweaters and accessories for your four-legged friends. Furry visitors will even get a pawesome holiday dog toy if they stay on the Nice List this season. Stop by and show your socially distanced holiday spirit all December long from 10 am – 4 pm. The booth will be set up on the patio in front of our main office located at 402 Bryant St. in Ojai.

Our financial support has significantly decreased since we had to close our doors in March due to the pandemic. As a private nonprofit, the HSVC relies 100% on private donations to provide our services. This holiday season, please consider donating to the HSVC so we can continue providing quality care to animals in need.

∙The Better Business Bureau advises extreme caution when shopping for a pet online, especially in light of scammers’ evolving tactics.

The BBB Scam Tracker saw an increased in pet fraud soon after cities and states began to impose tighter restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19. There were more reports about fraudulent pet websites in April than in the first three months of the year combined.

The COVID bump is continuing into the holiday season with consumers reporting 337 complaints to BBB about puppy scams in November 2020, a dramatic increase from 77 for the same month in 2019.

At the current pace, the number of pet scams reported to BBB in 2020 will be nearly five times higher than 2017 numbers, when BBB published its first in-depth investigative study on pet scams.

Different from 2017 is the way scammers are taking payment from victims, with scammers increasingly asking or money through payment apps like Zelle and CashApp as opposed to wiring money through Western Union or MoneyGram.

For example, one woman from the Traverse City area lost $2,000 to a puppy scam in November which started with a $500 deposit paid through Zelle for a Pomeranian puppy named Moose.

When it came time to ship the dog to Michigan the transportation company claimed it needed an additional $1,500 to upgrade the travel crate, which the company promised the would be refunded at the airport when the dog arrived.

After paying she then got a message that the company needed an additional $2,800 for puppy insurance because the dog was stressed from the first leg of its flight. When the Traverse City woman refused to pay, she was threatened with fines and possible criminal charges for puppy abandonment, according to the BBB.

A woman in Comstock Park reported losing $900 while trying to buy an Akita puppy in September. After making the initial payment, she was told she had to pay an additional $2,000 for travel insurance and a crate.

Excuses for additional payments often include special climate-controlled crates, insurance and a (non-existent) COVID-19 vaccine, according to Scam Tracker reports. There also were instances where purchasers wanted to pick up the pet but were told that wasn’t possible due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“Once one payment is made, scammers come up with a list of reasons why the customer has to send more money,” Catlett said. “They prey on your emotions, knowing that once you become attached to the idea that you will be getting a new puppy it is hard to say no.”

While puppies remain the most common bait in a pet scam, other animals are used as well. 12% of pet scam complaints to BBB were about kittens or cats.

When attempting to purchase pets online the BBB recommends seeing the pet in person or on a live video call before paying any money. Buyers should also do research to get a sense of a fair price for the breed they’re considering. If someone advertises a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price, it could be a fraudulent offer, according to the BBB.

Buyers should also use caution with breeders offering shipping. A better option is to check out a local animal shelter or breeder for pets you can meet before adopting or buying.

Although there has been an increase in demand for the adoption and fostering of pets during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has also been an uptick in the number of animals being surrendered, according to several animal shelters. Unfortunately, this uptick may increase after the holiday season, as oftentimes “gift” pets are surrendered as their owners cannot or will not look after them.

While pets have proven to be great companions amid the pandemic—providing entertainment, comfort, and stress relief—there are many things to consider prior to gifting a cat or dog to a friend or family member this Christmas. These considerations include pet care costs, owner commitment, and species/breed-pet owner compatibility.

Visit Ventura produces video series to inform in changing times

“We rise by lifting others.”

Robert Ingersoll

COVID-19 alters our landscape daily. So much to keep up with. Hoping to make things a little easier for everyone, Visit Ventura has launched “Ventura NOW,” a series of videos and blogs whose aim is simple — to keep everyone up to date on what’s happening in Ventura at the moment.

“Things are moving — and changing — so fast,” says Marlyss Auster, Visit Ventura President and CEO. “It’s easy for people to get confused, and maybe even feel a little helpless. We wanted to ease that feeling of confusion and helplessness. We thought what better way than to tell our friends, in a simple and straightforward manner, exactly how things stand in Ventura right now.”

Visit Ventura has already produced several “Ventura NOW” videos and distributed them on Youtube and across all of Visit Ventura’s Channels, which reach close to 200,000 followers. Couched in simple messages from Visit Ventura’s staff, the already produced “Ventura NOW” videos include “Beaches and Parking,” “Shop Ventura, Save Ventura” and “Channel Islands.” The short (less than two minutes) videos address simple specifics; for instance what you can expect when you take an Island Packers boat out to the Channel Islands, or what the rules are now at Ventura’s beaches. Visit Ventura has also published blogs on these topics. The slightly longer blogs contain more detailed information. And, being a situation in progress, Visit Ventura will stay on top of future changes, continuing to publish informative videos and blogs.

The reasoning behind “Ventura NOW” is as simple as the presentation.

“We’re all in this together, and any time we can help each other, well, the world is a better place,” says Auster.

For more information on “Ventura NOW,” and specific information on how things stand in Ventura regarding reopenings, please visit Visit Ventura’s website at www.visitventuraca.com.

And last but not least, a heartfelt thank you to Ventura’s residents. Thank you for staying informed, thank you for wearing a mask, and thank you for social distancing.

Plain and simple — thank you for caring.

Caring will help see us through.

Seasons Catering serves up a healthy portion of Good2Go

Gaby preparing Good2Go heat and serve meals.

In the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, Gabrielle Moes demonstrates how to succeed in business

Seasons Catering began 2020 celebrating its 20th year in business. It was to be a big year with many caterings booked for weddings, corporate events, premieres, and more. Then COVID hit and changed everything. Not one to let herself fall victim to her circumstances, Gabrielle Moes, Founder and CEO of Seasons Catering quickly pivoted, at a time when events and catering were temporarily shut down, to launch Good2Go heat and serve meals, available at www.thegood2go.com.

“I grew up in Ventura and I am deeply connected to this community. We have been through so much already with the Thomas Fire and now COVID,” shares Gabrielle. “I could see in March this was going to be serious and started meeting with my team immediately to begin putting an action plan together. We were ahead of the health standards and have consistently ensured our kitchen exceeds the new COVID regulations.” Then Gabrielle, aka Gaby, turned her attention to keeping her doors open.

She needed to generate a new stream of income. A Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV) graduate, 2018 WEV Business of the Year honoree, and recent inductee into the nonprofit’s Million Dollar Club, having reached $1 million in annual revenue – a milestone achieved by less than 2% of woman-owned businesses and less than 4% of male-owned businesses in the United States – Gaby knows how to visualize opportunities.

She started partnering with local non-profits, World Central Kitchen (WCK) and Ventura County Area Agency on Aging (VCAAA). Her team began preparing and delivering 1,400+ hot and healthy meals weekly for homebound seniors and frontline workers at a variety of county hospitals including Ventura County Medical Center. “From the beginning of COVID, Seasons Catering was there when we needed them most, delivering quality meals to our tireless medical staff,” said Amy Towner, Chief Executive Officer for Health Care Foundation for Ventura County. “Entrepreneurs like Gaby are how America was built. Gaby’s creativity and grit alongside her business acumen has debuted the heart of Ventura County businesses ability to navigate such a tumultuous disruption like COVID,” continued Towner.

As Seasons Catering continued to deliver community meals, Gaby began thinking about how to get her food into her neighbor’s homes. “As I saw more and more ordering take-out, I thought, ‘how can we provide our locally farm fresh, chef-crafted meals to people in a way they can enjoy our food at home with minimal preparation?’” Enter, Good2Go heat and serve meals.

Crafted by chefs, Good2Go is built on the principle that food is meant to be loved and shared. The company’s generously portioned meals, prepared with local farm-fresh ingredients and eco-friendly packaging, offer an easy heat & serve solution for your table at a great value. As a local woman-owned business, Seasons Catering proudly shares its love of food through Good2Go’s curbside pick-up and supportive community-based programs. Client favorites include pork-katsu ramen, chicken pot pie with a flakey cream cheese crust, and our seasonal berry shortcake with whipped cream, all made from scratch. “It is going very well,” commented Suzzi Koenig, Seasons Catering General Manager. “I’m excited that soon we will offer doorstep delivery of Good2Go heat and serve meals, which our clients have been asking for.”

Seasons Catering with unwavering leadership from Gabrielle Moes is winding down their 20th anniversary year. It’s certainly one they’ll always remember. And we’ll remember that when the chips were down, Seasons Catering saw the glimmer of hope that makes American businesspeople such a force. To learn more, please visit www.seasonscateringca.com.

New survey finds pandemic major contributor to half of older adults giving up hope  

“We have all been isolated from friends and family during the pandemic”

Independa, innovators of the award-winning TV-based social engagement, education and care platform, announced the results of a commissioned U.S. consumer survey, finding COVID-19 has had a critical impact on older adults’ mental health and physical health.

The results detail alarming new statistics about older adults abusing prescription drugs and alcohol, feeling despondent and being at an increased risk of committing suicide since COVID-19. On the positive side, the survey found older adults have largely exercised COVID-19 safety precautions, significantly limiting the amount of times they leave home.

The nationwide survey of 1,000 American adults with an older adult parent (over 70) who lives alone found that during COVID-19:

  • Three out of four (77%) are abusing prescription drugs
  • Nearly two-thirds (65%) are abusing alcohol
  • Over half (54%) have a diminished will to live
  • Nearly half (49%) are believed to be at increased risk for self-harm/suicide
  • 70% of older adults ventured outside their home fewer than 15 times (14% haven’t left home once)

“We have all been isolated from friends and family during the pandemic, but no demographic suffers more than our older adults,” said Kian Saneii, founder and CEO of Independa. “The survey we commissioned shows just how badly our older adults are failing to thrive in isolation leading to significant health risks to an already vulnerable population.”

Other interesting findings from the survey include:

  • Over half of men (51%) are at an increased risk of suicide and self-harm, compared to 37% of women
  • 76% are experiencing mental health decline
  • 68% are experiencing physical health decline
  • 88% are more isolated from loved ones
  • Out of all interactions, 53% report their parent misses “seeing their face” the most
  • Over half (53%) feel forgotten about
  • 85% of adult children of older adults feel considerable guilt about not being able to do more for their parent
  • Half (50%) believe video chat is the next best option to in-person visits for connecting with their parent

“Sadly, and untenably, as older adults dramatically reduce social engagement in support of COVID-19 protocols, they risk serious mental health issues,” Saneii added. “As humans, we need social connectivity, and as a compassionate society and species, we can and must do better to protect our older adults without further exacerbating their already prevalent challenges of isolation and loneliness.”

Time is running out: 3 key items to consider before the Dec. 7 Medicare enrollment deadline

by Rick Beavin, Desert Pacific Medicare President, Humana

In a year filled with unforeseen challenges and important decisions, people with Medicare have through Monday, Dec. 7 to select their Medicare Advantage or Prescription Drug Plan coverage for 2021. To ensure you have the right Medicare plan for you in place come January 1 of next year, it’s important to focus on these three key topics:

Navigating plan options during COVID-19 – Traditionally, the annual Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plan open enrollment period offers opportunities for in-person educational events and one-on-one meetings with licensed sales agents. This year, you can safely access the resources you need to choose the best plan for you, online or by phone. The Medicare Plan Finder is a great place to start.

Doctors in network, prescription drugs covered? As you connect with a licensed sales agent or research information online, remember to confirm which doctors and hospitals are in a plan’s network. If you have a preferred physician or health care facility, a licensed health insurance agent can help you see if a specific doctor or hospital is in a plan’s network and taking new patients.

Although Original Medicare does not cover most prescription drugs, many Medicare Advantage plans include prescription drug coverage, or you can sign up for a Part D Prescription Drug Plan separately. A licensed sales agent can look up the medications you would like covered and help you estimate what the cost of each drug would be on a plan.

New, innovative benefits – Beyond vision, hearing and dental coverage, if you aim to become healthier, look for fitness program benefits as many Medicare Advantage plans include them. If you are comfortable using technology, access to virtual doctor visits is broadly available and enables you to seek care through your phone or computer, without having to leave home. Some Medicare Advantage plans offer benefits to help address the COVID-19 pandemic including offering home-delivered meals for members with a COVID diagnosis.

As we approach the Dec. 7 Medicare annual enrollment deadline, remember you’re not alone. Key resources are available including licensed sales agents and websites such as medicare.gov and www.humana.com/medicare. You can also call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) (or TTY: 1-877-486-2048) 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or call Humana at 1-800-213-5286 (TTY: 711) 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time seven days a week.

 

Vol. 14, No. 05 – Dec 2 – Dec 15, 2020 – Opinion/Editorial

∙ The Ventura City Council has delayed adopting the ordinance allowing commercial cannabis businesses in Ventura due to concerns about the proximity of such establishments to residences, libraries, parks and schools. The council also delayed adopting a resolution that would have established the maximum number of cannabis businesses in the city.

The resolution would have established 1,000-foot buffer zones from the businesses to so-called “sensitive uses” such as schools and daycare and youth centers.

Even though City staff recommended the council takes action at its meeting, the Council didn’t rule because it wants another 1,000-foot buffer zone between the businesses to parks with playgrounds. The council also wants the 1,000-foot buffer zone from the businesses to schools to include Ventura College. I hope that they can agree on a final ordinance soon.

∙ Ventura County Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin stated that an outdoor dining ban is not coming to Ventura County as they are now in LA County, which allows for only restaurant takeout and delivery for three weeks. “We do not currently have plans to do that,” Levin said. “It’s not clear that outdoor dining is contributing to the COVID numbers here in Ventura County. We are watching that but we don’t have evidence at this time to support that.” I certainly hope closures aren’t mandated as it would be the end for many mom and pop restaurants in Ventura who have been struggling to just keep open.

∙ Voters in Oregon have made it the first state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of street drugs such as cocaine, heroin and amphetamine. The initiative allows people arrested for possessing small amounts of drugs to avoid possible jail time by paying a $100 fine and attending an addiction recovery program funded by revenue from legalized marijuana. I think this is a great start, and because Oregon is the first state to do this it will be used as a litmus test for other states to evaluate its effectiveness. I do not believe users of small amounts of illegal drugs should be jailed.

∙ A Superior Court judge has ordered Los Angeles to approve a 577-unit residential project planned in South LA stating its previous decision rejecting the project violated state housing law. Further stating that the decision was too vague and would not comply with the state Housing Accountability Act which bars cities from rejecting residential projects that comply with planning and zoning rules unless there is an unavoidable threat to public health and safety. I mention this because even though there might be opposition to some developments in Ventura, the city cannot stop projects being built only because they are not supported by the community if they comply with current zoning for the property.

Mail-in ballots have proven to work very well in California as it has in the five states that have used only mail in voting. California should continue to use this system in future elections making it much easier to vote, especially for the very elderly and handicapped. There are plenty of protections against fraudulent voting. And even though Trump and some Republicans feel that it doesn’t work, look at all of the Republicans that were voted for in California and other states. It certainly doesn’t favor one party over the other.

∙ The Third Amendment to the United States Constitution places restrictions on the quartering of soldiers in private homes without the owner’s consent, forbidding the practice in peacetime. The amendment is a response to the Quartering Acts passed by the British parliament during the buildup to the American Revolutionary War, which had allowed the British Army to lodge soldiers in private residences. Therefore, if soldiers show up at your house demanding to stay, you don’t need to let them.

∙ At the center of our galaxy there is a supermassive black hole called Sagittarius A that could suck us in. It has a mass roughly 4 million times that of our sun. And, it turns out, scientists have discovered that we’re 2,000 light-years closer to Sagittarius A* than we thought. I don’t think we need to worry quite yet.

∙ Representing the Trump campaign in its efforts to prevent Pennsylvania from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in that state (it failed), former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani appeared in federal court for the first time in 30 years. It was a disaster for Giuliani. He struggled to articulate what exactly was the basis of Trump’s legal claims. He came across as an old over the hill comedian with really bad material and not a qualified attorney.

President Trump claimed that President-elect Joe Biden must prove that the votes he received in the presidential election were not “illegally obtained” in order to enter the White House — the latest sign that Trump is not giving up his efforts to challenge the result.

Trump tweeted that Biden can only enter the White House as president if he can prove that his “ridiculous 80,000,000 votes were not fraudulently or illegally obtained. When you see what happened in Detroit, Atlanta, Philadelphia & Milwaukee, massive voter fraud, he’s got a big unsolvable problem!”

“We have to turn the election over, because there’s no doubt we have all the evidence, we have all the affidavits, we have everything,” he said, providing no evidence of his various allegations. “All we need is to have some judge listen to it properly without having a political opinion or having another kind of a problem, because we have everything and, by the way, the evidence is pouring in now as we speak.”

Recently Trump took reporters’ questions for the first time since November 3 and said, “If the media were honest and big tech was fair this wouldn’t even be a contest and I would have won by a tremendous amount. And I did win by a tremendous amount, but it hasn’t been reported yet.”

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had harsh words for President Trump’s legal team as it pursues its increasingly quixotic quest to overturn the November election. “Quite frankly, the conduct of the president’s legal team has been a national embarrassment,” Christie said on ABC’s “This Week.”

The Trump administration advanced its plans to cut federal regulation protections for birds despite criticisms from scientists and former federal officials that the move will likely be severely detrimental to the U.S. bird population.

Trump’s push to overturn the election results suffered another in a series of defeats (this time in Wisconsin). Officials in the state’s most populous county announced that a recount had added to President-elect Joe Biden’s lead. The Trump campaign (donors) paid the Wisconsin Elections Commission a fee of $3 million to proceed with recounts in Milwaukee and Dane counties. They didn’t get their money’s worth.

Visit Ventura Creates “Shop Ventura, Save Ventura”

The hard truth? Recent forecasts predict one in six Ventura retailers, and one out of two Ventura restaurants, won’t make it through the pandemic. But forecasts aren’t written in stone. And difficulties can be overcome. Ventura knows this firsthand. After the Thomas Fire in December of 2017, locals helped locals literally emerge from the ashes.

Now the COVID pandemic presents a longer-term challenge to overcome.

Visit Ventura created “Shop Ventura, Save Ventura” to do exactly that.

“As COVID continues to stretch on, so many businesses are fighting for survival,” says Visit Ventura President Marlyss Auster. ““We’ve always worked to support our community and do the next right thing. So we asked ourselves, ‘What can we do to turn the pessimistic forecasts around?’ And so, the birth of ‘Shop Ventura, Save Ventura.’”

It’s a straightforward name for a straightforward cause. Via social media, newsletters, posters in storefront windows, and good old fashioned (and effective) word of mouth, Visit Ventura is asking locals to shop at Ventura stores when they can. To eat at Ventura restaurants, or get take out, when they can. To use their own hard-earned dollars to help their hard-working local businesses.

“According to Totally Local Ventura County, for every $100 someone spends at a local retail business, an average of $68 returns to the local economy, versus $43 if they spend at, say, a national chain,” says Auster. “If everyone shifts their spending just 10% toward local, it can make a huge difference.”

For the Holidays, Visit Ventura is adding a creative twist to help local businesses through the pandemic. Now in its fifth year, Visit Ventura’s successful Elf Giveaway program will also give local businesses a financial shot in the arm. The program, which features a real Elf (why not believe?), offers Visit Ventura’s social media followers the chance to win prizes (each prize comes in twos; one for you, one for a friend) from local businesses every day through December and right up to Christmas. Prizes range from small to large, leading up to a five Grand Prizes given away just before Christmas Day. This year’s Grand Prizes include a trip for two to the Channel Islands, a guided kayak tour on Santa Cruz Island, a longboard hand shaped by the legendary Steve Walden of Walden Surfboards, and a hotel stay (for two) at the Ventura Beach Marriott and the Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach.

The machinations of the program aren’t as important as the effect. Visit Ventura has some 200,000 followers; the Elf Giveaway brings local businesses center stage. In years past, among other boosts, Ventura businesses have gained an average of 200 followers by participating in the program.

“In any year, Visit Ventura’s Elf Giveaway has always been a great way for smaller Ventura businesses to boost their business in a competitive shopping season,” says Auster. “And the Elf also gives everyone a boost of joy. Now, with COVID, both those boosts are critical.”