A draft plan for spending nearly $650 million in American Rescue Plan funding, with an emphasis on helping San Diego County residents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, was approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.
The board voted separately on 13 proposed individual spending recommendations, making some alterations along the way. Most recommendations were passed unanimously.
According to the plan, roughly half the money ($307 million) would go towards pandemic-related expenses, including COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccination programs.
Another portion of the federal funds will go towards rental assistance, help for small businesses, child care subsidies and mental health services.
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Andy Pease, chief operating officer for the county Health and Human Services Agency, said half of the funds the county receives from the $1.9 trillion, 628-page coronavirus relief bill signed into law in March by resident Joe Biden will not be available until May 2022.
In drafting the spending plan, county staff also considered U.S. Treasury guidelines, how long the county will have access to funds from the bill, sustaining programs beyond the pandemic, allocating funds on a fair and impartial basis, future state and federal funding opportunities and board member priorities, Pease said.
The spending plan includes:
- $232.5 million for prior and ongoing COVID-19 response costs, along with $75 million for future evaluation and needs.
- $85 million for homeless services including creating a county program to help those at risk.
- $20 million for food assistance for vulnerable people and support for community gardens.
- $10 million for senior and youth services.
- $16 million for child care, including incentives for hiring more child care workers, supportive grants for providers and vouchers directly to vulnerable populations to help cover costs of care.
- $40 million direct stimulus payments for residents disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
- $15 million for legal services and counseling for tenants facing eviction and landlords in financial need.
- $56 million for small business and nonprofit organizations, including $5 million for arts organizations, with a focus on underserved communities and those hardest hit economically.
- $32 million for infrastructure projects such as improved storm water improvements, broadband, fire districts, electric vehicle infrastructure and environmental services.
- $36 million in hazard pay for county essential workers.
The board voted after hearing requests from residents during an hour-plus public forum.
Supervisor Joel Anderson was the lone no vote against hazard pay for county workers, explaining the vote "is no reflection of how I feel about our county employees,'' but too many residents in his district have lost jobs and he could not "in good conscience take their tax dollars ... for COVID bonuses to those who never missed a paycheck.''
Board Chairman Nathan Fletcher said county staff will have ability to return to the board with any adjustments or other proposals.
"This really is the beginning of an ongoing process,'' Fletcher said.