SB County receives no federal funds
Large counties in California received nearly double the COVID-19 Relief Funds from the state per person than smaller counties did, including Santa Barbara County.
And no federal money was given to this county or other smaller counties as part of the COVID-19 Relief Funds.
According to a report published on Tuesday by California State Auditor Elaine Howle, 42 small counties (fewer than 500,000 residents) in California received “significantly less” money than 16 large counties (more than 500,000 residents).
Residents of the larger counties, which include Los Angeles, Ventura, San Diego, Fresno and Santa Clara, received $174 from the federal government and $16 to $23 from the state, totaling $190 to $197 per person.
Residents in the smaller counties, which include Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, San Benito and Kings counties, received no money from the federal government and $102 from the state, totaling $102 per person.
The state Department of Finance said it allocated more money to the larger counties because it believed the greater populations would logically have a higher spread of COVID-19.
However, in her report, Ms. Howle wrote, “COVID-19 case data maintained by the California Department of Public Health does not support Finance’s assertion. Specifically, for April through June 2020, both large and small counties had greater than 500 total COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.”
She compared four large counties to six small counties that had greater than 500 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents from April 2020 through June 2020. Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties all had more than 500 positive cases, but so did Imperial, Kings, Lassen, Marin, Santa Barbara and Tulare counties.
In fact, Los Angeles County had the highest number of cases of the four large counties at 989, but Imperial County had 3,215 cases, even as a smaller county. Kings County also had more, with a total of 1,525 COVID cases.
“Given the high COVID-19 case rates in both small and large counties, Finance should have allocated more CRF funds to small counties,” Ms. Howle wrote. “Through a CRF frequently-asked-questions document issued in late May 2020, the U.S. Treasury recommended that states should treat local governments equitably, regardless of their population size …
“This allocation methodology would have addressed more counties’ needs for COVID-19-related funding because each county would have received the same funding per person. Consequently, by not equitably providing counties with funds, there is greater risk that more small counties’ COVID-19-related funding needs were unmet.”
She recommended the Finance Department propose a method to the Legislature to provide equitable funding to counties on a per-person basis, and follow up on any concerns the department may have identified during its readiness reviews. The department agreed to consider implementing more equitable funding, but “it indicated that it does not intend to implement our recommendation to follow up on concerns it may have identified during its readiness reviews.”
Santa Barbara County reviewed the report, and Assistant County Executive Officer Jeff Frapwell said the county agrees with Ms. Howle.
“We concur with the Auditor’s conclusion that California counties with populations under 500,000 were disadvantaged by the methodology used to allocate the CRF funding passed through the state,” he said in a statement. “We are hopeful that any future financial aid from the federal government in support of our response to the current pandemic be allocated on a more equitable basis.”
Second District County Supervisor Gregg Hart told the News-Press he contacted Gov. Gavin Newsom on behalf of the Board of Supervisors on the need for funding, which resulted in an allocation of $46.1 million from the state’s CARES Act funds.
“This revenue has helped us meet some of the significant increased costs from our COVID-19 response, but the state auditor’s findings that the allocation was not fair highlights the need to address this inequity in the next round of federal funding,” he said.