The Great Plates program that pays for healthy meals to be delivered to high risk seniors homes in California is set to come to an end next month.
"We get to feed the seniors – that way they don't have to go to the stores, we get to keep the restaurant going which in turn keeps my employees employed," said Jack Srebnik, owner of The Slice Pizzeria in Rancho Mirage. "This has been a godsend since May."
Srebnik said the program has kept his business afloat for the last six months. "Without it, we would have been closed."
Tuesday night he was gearing up for a big delivery: almost 150 meals going to at-risk seniors. The meals will feed about 50 people – three meals per day, seven days per week.
"Sometimes we're the only people they see when they come to the door," Srebnik said. "They're just so thankful to talk and be seen and know that we care."
Riverside County has spent $33.6 million on the program so far, paying 56 restaurants countywide which in turn have provided more than 63,000 meals per week. This week, the county expects to surpass more than 900,000 meals served.
Much of that money – 75 percent – will be reimbursed by the federal government. A smaller portion, $4.1 million, will be reimbursed by the state. Despite fronting the total cost of the program, Riverside County will ultimately only be responsible for $1.7 million, which will ultimately be deducted from the CARES funding allocation.
But after six months, including an extension, the Oct. 9 end date of the Great Plates program is looming, less than a month away. That's got some business owners, including Srebnik, starting to worry.
"If the restaurant is still closed (to indoor dining) -- that will put us in really dire straights," he said.
With Riverside County still in the purple tier of reopening for at least another week, he's hoping the coronavirus metrics will hold, to allow the advancement to the red tier – which allows for indoor dining.
"I hope we get to it," Srebnik said "I hope our customers have a chance to come back and eat inside and enjoy themselves. We're going to be very safe and they have to be safe also."