The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will consider options for spending more than $43 million in funds allocated by the American Rescue Plan during a special meeting Tuesday.
The county is slated to receive about $43.3 million in funds from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act this year, which comes from the $1.9 trillion recovery plan that was passed in March. Through the plan, Americans received $1,400 stimulus checks, states were allocated a minimum of $500 million in emergency funding and the government enacted special unemployment compensation that waived federal income tax requirements on the first $10,200 in benefits.
The plan also made provisions to allocate funds to local governments over the next two years. In all, Santa Barbara County will receive $86.7 million in funds over the next two years, which must be allocated for eligible purposes by the end of 2024.
According to the ARPA, $25.3 million of the funding must be directed to recovery efforts directly related to the COVID-19 public health emergency and its effect on the community, according to a board letter from the County Executive Office. Funding for this category in the fiscal year 2021-2022 budget has not yet been directed by the Board of Supervisors, and the CEO is still working on a recovery plan.
“Staff is developing a Recovery Plan of eligible services and expenditures to ensure the County of Santa Barbara can recover in a way that is sustainable, resilient, inclusive, and equitable, by addressing a variety of individual and community health impacts of COVID-19, including physical, psycho-social, socio-economic and institutional/structural effects,” the CEO wrote in a board letter.
After the restricted funding is factored out, the county is left with about $18 million in discretionary funds, which can be used to replace general revenues lost during the pandemic. This money has not yet been allocated for certain purposes, and the Board of Supervisors will be discussing both the discretionary and restricted funds during Tuesday’s meeting.
The CEO has compiled a list of possible uses for the funds. For potential uses of the restricted ARPA funds, the CEO is proposing the money be used to respond to the economic impacts of COVID-19 by covering public health expenses, expand behavioral health services, implement interim and long-term solutions for housing and improve access to county services for underserved communities, among other possibilities.
Staff are also recommending that the restricted funding be used to purchase and renovate an existing facility in Isla Vista and transform it into a homeless shelter. According to the CEO’s office, this would cost about $7 million and could be sustained by federal funding in the future.
The CEO is also pitching a range of potential projects that can be fulfilled using the remaining $18 million in discretionary funding from ARPA. The list includes using the funds to prioritize one-time capital and maintenance projects that need to be completed across the county. This includes infrastructure replacements in county buildings, improvements and repairs to county parks and the development of multi-use recreational trails.
In addition to deliberations about the allocation of ARPA funds, the Board of Supervisors will hear an update from the County Sheriff’s Office on the jail’s inmate population and management.
Supervisors considered two special issues, “Jail Population, Diversion and Collaborative Justice” and “Main Jail Staffing and Facility Assessment Alternatives,” during budget hearings in April. Now, the County’s Sheriff’s Office is returning to provide a follow-up on the current status of the inmate population.
According to a board letter from the Sheriff’s Office, the jail’s population was 646 as of May 13, including 601 men and 45 women. Even before the pandemic struck, the county jail’s population was swiftly declining. According to data from the Sheriff’s Office, the population peaked at an average of 1,073 in 2016 down to an average of 903 in 2019.
To access Tuesday’s meeting, community members can stream the meeting live from countyofsb.org/ceo/csbtv/media.sbc or on the county’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/user/CSBTV20.