Board approves significant investment in homelessness response for FY 2022-2023
The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors allocated $5.9 million in restricted American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds on Tuesday, distributing millions for COVID-19 response costs, homelessness response and infrastructure development.
The county is slated to receive $86.7 million in ARPA funds to address revenue loss during the pandemic and fund various aspects of the county’s economic recovery. The funds are being allocated in two tranches — the first in fiscal year 2021-2022 and the second in 2022-2023.
In the first round, the county received $26.5 million in discretionary funds and $16 million in restricted funding, for a total of $43.3 million. In the second round, the county will receive an additional $43.3 million in restricted funds.
Supervisors decided on Tuesday how to distribute the remaining $5.9 million in restricted funds leftover from tranche one. The board voted in June on how to distribute an initial $10.8 million in restricted funds allocated in the first round, and Tuesday’s vote determined where the rest of the money would go.
Out of the $5.9 million, Supervisors unanimously voted to allocate nearly $2.1 million for COVID-19 response costs and reporting, $350,000 for economic vitality and broadband studies, $1 million for a clean water project and a total of $2.46 million for several Health and Human Services projects.
Of the $2.46 million allocated to Health and Human Services, about $550,000 is going toward disaster resiliency, $210,000 is going toward organization and technology, $500,000 is for community health and wellbeing and $1.2 million is to address housing and homelessness through bridge housing.
During Tuesday’s deliberations, the board also discussed how to spend a $22.9 million portion of the second ARPA allocation totalling $43.3 million in restricted funds, which will be applied to the county’s budget for 2022-2023.
County staff outlined several spending priorities for the board to consider on Tuesday, with the most prevalent being housing and homelessness. Staff presented Supervisors with a proposed budget that called for about 55% of $22.9 million in funds to be set aside to address housing and homelessness, representing a significant investment on the part of the county.
Several public commenters urged the Board to approve this investment into the county’s homeless response on Tuesday, asking Supervisors to use the funding to provide aid to those disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
“We have seen homelessness expand as our housing affordability crisis worsens, made all the more severe by this pandemic and its economic effects,” Zeke Sandoval, the public policy manager for PATH, said during the public comment period Thursday. “The American Rescue Plan is a once in a generation opportunity to reverse this trend.”
During board discussion, each board member agreed that investing in homeless solutions and housing projects is a high priority.
“This is a critical need that we need to support, and I’m really proud that we’re in a position to do that,” Supervisor Gregg Hart said Tuesday.
Of the $22.9 million, county staff recommended that Supervisors allocate $7.3 million for COVID-19 response and reporting, $955,000 for infrastructure ventilation improvements in some county buildings, $530,000 for stormwater trash controls and a total of $12.6 million for housing and homeless projects.
The $12.6 million for homeless services would go toward servicing 100 beds through 2024, funding a potential HomeKey Match, advancing year two of the county’s encampment strategy and funding for multiple outreach teams.
Supervisor Steve Lavagnino and Board Chair Bob Nelson voiced support for the investment in these services on Tuesday but noted that they hoped to see more of an investment in beds and shelters.
“There’s a difference to me in continuing to spend money on outreach programs and everything else besides capital,” Supervisor Lavagnino said. “What I appreciate about this is the $7 million investment in Isla Vista, the investment that we’re making at Bridge House. We can go out and talk to folks all day at encampment sites, but if we don’t have a place to put them, we’re spinning our wheels.”
Following deliberations, the Supervisors ultimately approved the spending priorities for the $22.9 million portion for the 2022-2023 fiscal year and decided to prioritize funding for childcare relief and recovery and the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County’s pandemic response.
The board will discuss the allocation of discretionary ARPA funds on Dec. 1 and will have a final discussion on tranche two funding during budget workshops in April 2022.