Updated: May 17
The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors met on August 11 and one of the hot topics they discussed was how the County spent the $181 million in federal CARES Act money they received to address the COVID-19 crisis.
This may come as no surprise to our regular readers, but they’re messing up. Bee columnist Marcos Breton calls it Malpractice. Let's run down some numbers:
Of the $181 million, they've already spent about $148 million.
About $104 million went to the County Sheriff's Department payroll and another $21.6 million went to the Probation Department. That means 85% of the County’s CARES Act funds have ALREADY been spent! (Or so they claim)
The County only has about $33 million left from the CARES fund to spend on any remaining public health needs that arise as we continue to grapple with this pandemic.
And the most important numbers: Sacramento County has over 10,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 100 deaths. We know that Black, Latinx and other people of color make up a disproportionate number of those affected and are also the same communities most impacted by over-policing.
So with that setting the stage, the question is "WHY?" Unfortunately the short answer is because they could. The Board of Supervisors delegated decisions on spending the CARES funds to County Executive Nav Gill, who ultimately made these decisions without transparency or accountability to the public.
The County is dealing with a general fund shortage as a result of the pandemic and Gill decided to use the federal money to backfill those losses. Gill explained that based on the federal guidelines for spending the CARES money, public safety expenses could be presumed to be COVID-related.
So instead of centering the public health needs of the community, he made spending decisions to prioritize sheriff. In.A.Pandemic! Gill did say that the County is using other funds besides CARES to help pay for public health needs but these expenditures haven’t been laid out for the public so that we can see where our dollars are flowing. (Pssh...he lying)
When asked about public health spending, Gill repeatedly assured the Supervisors that he funded everything the department needed. But it turns out that isn't exactly true. When Supervisors asked Dr. Olivia Kasiyre, County public health officer, she explained that she had to scale down her budget requests multiple times. And currently she has a $45 million budget request for lab resources and staffing costs, but the CARES fund balance doesn't even have that amount left. So she's working to scale that back as well. Not. Okay.
A budget is a statement of priorities. And even in the midst of the worst public health disaster in a century, the leaders in Sacramento County chose to make the payroll of the Sheriff's Department more of a priority than the health care needs of the people. Shame.
They need to Give That Money Back. Call your county supervisor and tell them to fund public health at the special meeting on Wednesday, August 19th at 2pm.