The historic San Diego County administration building. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

San Diego County’s recommended $6.4 billion budget for fiscal year 2020-21, which was released Monday, includes $100 million dedicated to testing, medical supplies, food distribution and other needs related to the COVID-19 public health crisis.

Calling COVID-19 “the county’s top budgetary priority,” county leaders released a statement announcing the Health and Human Services Agency will see an increase of $100 million to support the county’s Testing, Tracing and Treatment Strategy, personal protective equipment, and other resources and efforts in its pandemic response.

Another $15 million is earmarked for technological resources related to behavioral health services, including telehealth, electronic health record upgrades, outreach and engagement, workforce recruitment and retention.

The COVID-19-related economic downturn also affected other sectors of the budget, with county officials expected to dip into reserves and slow or stop “non-essential services and projects” in order to address revenue shortfalls.

The proposed spending plan is $159 million — or 2.5% — larger than the last fiscal year’s budget.

Budget increases include an additional $23.7 million to address homelessness in unincorporated county areas and $400,000 to develop a Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool to help homeless individuals move into permanent housing. Other budgetary increases related to homelessness include $3 million to address homelessness among people ages 24 or younger, and $2.6 million to the Sheriff’s Homeless Assistance Resource Team, which partners sheriff’s deputies with local service agencies to help connect homeless individuals with much-needed services.

The budget includes a $1.5 million increase for Child Welfare Services and a $1.2 million increase for the C3 for Veterans program, which helps local veterans with housing assistance, care coordination and vocational opportunities.

The budget also calls for a $15.7 million net decrease in the Capital Program, but does include $105.9 million toward a number of projects, including $22.3 million to enhance and renovate the Rock Mountain Detention Facility, $15 million for design and construction of the Innovative Residential Rehabilitation Program, $9.3 million for expansion and improvements at various county parks, and $7.2 million to construct the Mt. Laguna and Palomar Mountain fire stations, as well as planning for the East Otay Mesa Fire Station.

Other county priorities outlined in the budget include $21.1 million to implement the Community Air Protection Program to improve air quality, the expansion of Crisis Stabilization Units and commencement of non-law enforcement Mobile Crisis Response Teams, and the design and implementation of an earthquake early warning system pilot program.

Virtual budget hearings will begin Aug. 10. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to deliberate and adopt the budget at an Aug. 25 virtual public hearing.

More information on the budget is available at https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/openbudget/.

— City News Service

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