San Diego County

San Diego County Passes $7 Billion Budget With Focus on Equity, Environment and Recovery

Spending recommendations include programs aimed at reducing homelessness, reforming the justice system and environmental protection

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The San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved Tuesday a $7.23 billion revised budget for fiscal year 2021-22 that is set to take effect July 1.

The budget focuses on addressing equity, homelessness and spurring economic opportunity post-pandemic, the county said. It also allows for the county to add about 1,000 employees to its payroll.

The budget presented to the board Tuesday called for spending roughly $2.7 billion for health and human services, $2.2 billion for public safety, $1.5 billion for general government and $600 million for environmental programs.

About $200.9 million was added before the budget was approved Tuesday. The approved budget is a 10.4% increase over last year's.

It includes a $12.5 million focus on justice reform, which focuses spending on reentry programs to reduce recidivism, access to mental health service and medical care throughout the jail system and an expansion of a mobile crisis response team, which will act as an alternative to law enforcement in some cases.

The newly-formed Office of Equity and Racial Justice received an increased budget of about $600,000. In the Public Defender's Office, funding will go towards a one-year pilot program for an Immigrant Rights Legal Defense Program.

The budget also provides funding for about 60 new sheriff's department employees and three-member San Diego County Fire teams in remote locations.

A large chunk of the budget, $226.9 million, invests in continued response to COVID-19 and focuses on equity -- programs that target hard-hit neighborhoods and other vulnerable populations, the county said. An additional $89.4 million will go towards testing, case investigations, contact tracing and more to address COVID-19.

The budget relies on the $650 million allocated from the American Rescue Plan Act to spur economic recovery post-pandemic. The funding will go to senior and youth services, small business stimulus funds, permit fee waivers for the event industry, child-care subsidies, food assistance and mental health services, the county said.

About $85 million of the American Rescue Plan Act funds will go towards addressing homelessness. The budget allows funds to go towards the creation of a homeless solutions department to streamline operations that are now spread across various agencies, the county said. Homelessness goes hand-in-hand with housing accessibility. About $107 million state and federal funding will go towards rental assistance programs.

An increase of $25 million for housing will go towards initiatives to increase affordable housing.

In a series of meetings held in late May and earlier this month, supervisors heard requests from department leaders and hundreds of residents.

The county is focusing $104.5 million on environmental protection, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting water quality and more.

Another $282.7 million will go towards investing in community assets like firehouses, libraries, parks and recreational areas.

Learn more about the county's 2021-22 budget here and see details of the county's two-year operational plan here.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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