SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Wednesday afternoon to approve a plan that would reallocate $49.6M of federal Coronavirus Relief Fund money from the CARES Act temporarily to public safety departments, including the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office and the county’s probation department.
"These are the biggest locations of general fund dollars in our county’s budget, that’s essentially the reason," said Bruce Wagstaff, the Deputy County Executive of Social Services. “So coronavirus money in, general fund money out, nobody benefits from this other than the effort to deal with the pandemic."
The approval comes with the stipulation that the money will make its way back to public health. County officials said it will happen all in one day and it can happen as early as next week.
The board clarified that public safety departments will not actually be benefitting from this money or see a dollar of it, it is all going back to public health. This is board's workaround to save the money they received or they would have been required to give back to the federal government if it wasn’t spent by Dec. 30, 2020, per federal guidelines.
Dr. Olivia Kasirye, Sacramento County Public Health Officer, said roughly $40M of $49.6 million has already been set aside for things like vaccine freezers that the county is still waiting to get.
But with such a large pool of money still just sitting there, many business owners wonder when their help is coming.
“Please, take into consideration that you have people’s lives in your hands," Brenda Rejamand, owner of BD Tax and Finance said.
Rejamand is the founder of BD Tax and Finance in the Arden-Arcade area but since March, her business, along with many of her neighbors, have sat vacant, unsure of what the future will bring.
"So when I hear that they’re sitting on a decision that can make a difference, it’s very devastating. It’s something that I, as a business owner, would hope and pray that they understand that every second counts for a business," she said.
Other business owners came to the Board of Supervisors meeting with a stern message.
“Their decisions are affecting our livelihood. This is their last meeting before Jan. 12. They’re going on paid vacation and, the rest of us, our businesses are falling apart," said Gabrielle Ingram, a small business owner.
Acknowledging that many businesses are in Ingram's position, the board also agreed to hold an emergency meeting over their winter recess to figure out how to spend the money. The date on that is still TBA.
"Shame on us if we’re going to wait three and a half weeks because of a traditional recess not to get those funds to the people who need it the most," Phil Serna, the Chair of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors said.
Earlier this year, it was first reported by the Sacramento Bee that Sacramento County spent most of the $181 million it received in coronavirus relief money on the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office payroll with $104 million to the Sheriff's Office, $21.6 million to the probation department and $6.2 million to the Health Services Department.
A county report says about $4 million went towards buying Personal Protection Equipment [PPE], such as masks and hand sanitizer, and only $10,000 was allocated for contact tracing. The Sacramento County Sheriff's Office payroll is paid for through the county's general fund.
Also during Wednesday's Sacramento County Board of Supervisors meeting, Dr. Peter Beilenson, the head of the Sacramento County Department of Health Services, said he anticipates the three week regional stay-at-home order to extend, turning into an eight week stay-at-home order because of a potential spike in post-Christmas COVID-19 cases.
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