San Diego County Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer. Photo via biddingbowl.com

San Diego County’s government has spent between $18 million and $20 million so far in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a Health and Human Services official told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

And Helen Robbins-Meyer, chief administrative officer, said once the crisis is over, the county could face financial challenges worse than the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 or the Great Recession in 2008.

“There will be significant policy decisions based on the new fiscal realities,” she said.

Andy Pease, HHSA finance director, said that recent pandemic spending covers expenses for administrative support, staff time, frontline workers, housing for vulnerable residents, and protective gear and ventilator purchases.

Pease said the county’s fiscal year-end costs in response to the pandemic could range between $50 million to $60 million.

He added that number is a conservative estimate, and “what the true cost will be is a difficult number to land on as we still face so much uncertainty.”

“What we do know is that our most challenging days are still in front of us,” Pease told the board.

Pease said the county is drawing from its general fund to cover costs, and is anticipating some reimbursement from the federal government, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Money from a federal stimulus package recently passed by Congress may also help the county, Pease said.

Robbins-Meyer said that although normal revenue streams will drop, the county does have reserves to help it pull through the crisis, telling the board that a more thorough fiscal update will be available in May.

Robbins-Meyer recently announced that the county’s 2020-21 budget process would not begin until July.

Supervisors also received an update on how various county programs and departments — including law enforcement, animal welfare and the court system — are functioning during the health crisis.

The county declared a health emergency in response to the COVID-19 crisis on Feb. 14.

— City News Service

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