Item 52 at the Sac County BOS meeting was ostensibly an unobjectionable item. It sets aside money for a Food Insecurity Pilot Program that provides funding to certain organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to reimburse restaurants for meal services designed to address food insecurity. The Board voted unanimously to approve the item.
So, what's the problem?
Well, to start, when ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding was initially given out to help fight against food insecurity back in January, NO black-led organizations were given any of the money.
So, then, when the NAACP reached out to Supervisor Serna's office to ask why the funding had been distributed in such an inequitable manner, Serna was suddenly happy to make funding available.
The next step would be to just distribute money directly from the ARPA funds, right?
Well, not if you're Ethan Dye (Director of the Sac County Department of Human Assistance), who believes that the restaurants would have difficulty keeping up with the reporting requirements that would be necessary if they were to use ARPA funding. The proposed solution is to instead transfer the needed money to the General Fund, and then allocate the funding from said fund. An unfortunate side effect of this decision is that we will not have a mechanism for tracking the implementation and/or effectiveness of these meal service programs.
It's not that this is not a good cause, or a bad use of funding, but it IS yet another example of the County using roundabout measures to hand out ARPA funding. Allocating this money was not carefully planned using an equity lens. Rather, it was slapped together at the last minute, as a reaction to a problem RATHER THAN a preventative approach to a problem.
Moving money around in this way is reminiscent of how the Board mismanaged Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) funding. Mismanagement, it should be remembered, that has resulted in an indictment from the Sacramento County Grand Jury (decision summary linked here) .
Long story short - the County has demonstrated yet again an unwillingness to center equity in their decision-making when it comes to funding for pandemic relief. We need to be implementing equitable programs and systems that ensure that these programs are effective and producing measurable outcomes.
Below you can hear a powerful comment addressing problems with the intent behind Board decisions such as this one from SJPC founder and Executive Director, Kula Koenig.