Supervisors Nathan Fletcher and Greg Cox proposed almost $50 million in additional social services Tuesday, including assistance for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, ahead of the county board’s vote on the fiscal year 2020-21 budget Tuesday afternoon.
With support from community activists, the pair proposed money for rental assistance, behavioral health services for homeless residents, income replacement because of COVID-19, greater internet access and environmental justice improvements, including air quality monitors.
Supervisors were scheduled to meet later Tuesday to formally approve the county’s $6.4 billion budget. Normally held in late June, this year’s budget approval process was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Fletcher’s office, the supervisor is seeking $49,270,000 to address issues of equity that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. His proposals include:
- $24 million for rental assistance.
- $10 million for internet access for low-income families for distance learning.
- $5.4 million for mental health, substance misuse and care coordination services.
- $5 million for enterprise-wide translation of county materials.
- $2 million for income replacement stipend for essential workers.
- $1 million for expand legal support for fair housing practices.
- $620,000 for pilot program to waive fees for residential wind projects, electric vehicle charging systems, energy storage and upgrade.
- $500,000 for green street master plan for public and private infrastructure.
- $550,000 for air quality monitors, purifiers and data analysis.
- And $200,000 for a weatherization program.
“Many of these amendments will fulfill immediate service and programmatic needs to improve the health and wellbeing of people suffering in this moment, and lay the foundation for a more equitable future,” Fletcher said. “These actions will make a dent in the ongoing needs of our community, but there will still be more work to be done.”
Several community leaders spoke out in support of the proposed budget increases.
“The $24 million proposed for rental assistance will help many families not have to worry as much to stay housed, and is a step in the right direction,” said Patricia Mendoza of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.
Marwa Abdalla, a member of MAS PACE — a division of the Muslim American Society — said that for the county to be inclusive, “we need to ensure equitable access to interpretation and translation services. When we do not prioritize high quality interpretation for multiple communities, we send a message of not belonging and not being a priority to the county.”
Paola Martinez-Montes, campaign manager of Invest in San Diego Families, said the board “must center and address the needs of Black, Indigenous and people of color, who this county has historically marginalized. Our Board of Supervisors must vote to move our county toward a path of equity and justice, by supporting our community’s demands.”
Matthew Vasilakis, co-policy director for the Climate Action Campaign, said more funds for environmental programs “will help protect our communities and the most vulnerable from the worst impacts of the climate crisis, while advancing a zero carbon future of health and prosperity for all.”
The Chicano Federation also released a statement in favor of Fletcher’s proposals.
“Today, our Board of Supervisors will vote on a budget that will impact the lives of all San Diego County residents who continue to face unprecedented challenges brought forth by this pandemic,” said Nancy Maldonado, the federation’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. “These proposals are a step in the right direction. There is still a lot of work left to do to ensure an equitable recovery.”
The proposed spending plan is $159 million — or 2.5% — larger than the last fiscal year’s budget. Because the county is required to have a balanced budget, planning has its limits, and “we can’t continue all levels of service indefinitely,” Chief Administration Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer said earlier this month.
— City News Service
Updated at 4:49 p.m. Aug. 25, 2020