On December 30 the Sacramento BOS held a special meeting. At this meeting they discussed two pots of money that the Public Health Department can draw funds from for COVID relief assistance; one for $14 million, and one for $8.8 million. The $14 million dollars has already had action taken on it (it’s being used for things like: staffing, operations, and outreach responses for COVID) at the previous meeting. The information provided by Dr. Kasirye (the Public Health Officer) at this meeting was simply an update on how the money is being spent. Peters and Frosty had a lot to say about their concerns about how the money is being spent, but since the presentation was only educational, no actions were taken based on their comments.
The second pot of money, for $8.8 million, was money that needed to be spent by December 31st, but had not yet been. Dr. Kasirye recommended that most of these unused funds go to COVID testing, and that a small portion go to supporting restaurants. The Board questioned why so much of the funds were suggested to go towards testing - and they brought up other areas in which they wanted money to be spent. Dr. Kasirye indicated that some of the money could be diverted away from testing.
The final breakdown was:
$1million for food programs - cover expenses for restaurants to provide food for families and homeless persons in need of meal assistance.
$1 million for the Latino Economic Council - to provide direct services and small business assistance.
$1 million for child care services - to support childcare providers and/or parents; this provides for supporting 9,697 children with subsidized child care.
$5.8 million for COVID-19 testing - to continue testing for the community sites, behavioral health and long-term care facilities.
We will continue monitoring the allocation of funds used to support the pandemic response, and insisting on transparency and equity in decision-making surrounding the distribution of money. Stay tuned!
We need to talk about some less than great news that came out of the December 16 Sacramento Board of Supervisors meeting. The relief aid from the CARES Act must be spent by December 30, or else it will be returned to the state and federal government. So, naturally, the BOS decided to allocate a portion of the money to “public safety”, ie. the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office. Officials say that the funds can then be appropriated by the Sheriff's Office before the December 30 deadline. Some funds are going to health services, but, as our very own Kula Koenig says, “I can’t believe that this is how you [the Board] keep choosing to spend this money”. She, like all of here at SJPC, believes the money should be spent on trying to lift people out of the devastation of the pandemic.
“This money could be going for rental assistance, helping with mortgage moratorium, helping with our small businesses that are failing”
Ever the advocate for the people in her community, Sue Frost said she agrees that health services need more funding, but that “[i]t takes time to activate these programs sometimes and it’s not that easy to get money moving”. But again they seemed to be able to quickly move money over to the Sheriff. Frosty says that the money appropriated for public safety this time around will free up money for the general fund in 2021, which will then be used for financial assistance.
“The sheriff’s and probation are not making any more money, it’s an equal swap,” Frost explained. “And if it wasn’t for that equal swap, we would lose the money and that would be money next year that they could have had that they didn’t have. It’s the only way we can keep from losing that CARES Act money.”
Many questions remain about how this process will take shape, the BOS has agreed to reconvene during the holiday recess to figure out the details.