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Stanislaus County public health, other services impacted by Newsom's budget proposal

Modesto Bee - 5/16/2024

May 16—Stanislaus County officials will try to minimize the damage, but budget impacts to public health services and other county departments are inevitable under Gov. Gavin Newsom's state budget proposal.

The governor's recent budget revision would eliminate $300 million in funding that began in 2022 to shore up public health agencies in the latter part of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two-thirds of the funding has gone to county health departments.

County Chief Executive Officer Jody Hayes said this week an allocation of $3 million per year has supported public health staffing in Stanislaus County.

Hayes said the governor's proposals for dealing with a $28 billion deficit would directly impact several county departments and programs, including the Health Services Agency, Community Services Agency, Probation, Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, transportation, programming for the homeless and economic development.

California counties were expecting to get more clarification from the state on funding for mental health reforms and efforts to reduce homelessness. Hayes said county departments are seeking more details on budget impacts and a fuller report is expected next week.

County and state health agencies were given the $300 million in annual state funding for rebuilding the public health workforce and to pay for infrastructure needs. Newsom's budget proposal threatens 1,200 positions created in the last two years at local public health agencies across the state, according to the County Health Executives Association of California.

"Now is not the time to turn back the clock on public health readiness and forget the painful lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic," the association said in a budget memo.

Stanislaus County hasn't released an estimate on the impacts to public health staffing.

Part of Newsom's budget-balancing proposal calls for cutting 10,000 vacant state government positions.

Hayes told county supervisors Tuesday that staff is tracking any state budget language that might indicate a delay or return of promised funding for specific county projects.

The county sent advocacy letters to Sacramento in support of infrastructure projects and the Del Puerto Creek groundwater recharge project in Patterson, Hayes said.

Proposals for dealing with the $28 billion shortfall are not a done deal. The Legislature is expected to pass a balanced budget by June 15.

The California VOCA Advocacy Alliance said the governor's proposals include no additional funding for victims of crime and domestic violence to make up for a major reduction in federal funding through the Victims of Crime Act. A coalition of groups had asked the state for $200 million to maintain funding for victims services such as mental health, legal assistance and shelter services.

Before the 45% reduction in VOCA funding was announced in April, the federal source accounted for 87% of funding for crime victim services in the Stanislaus County District Attorney's Office.

"The VOCA cuts will have a major impact on our budget," Steve Ashman, executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Stanislaus County, said by email Wednesday.

With the reduction, the 48 CASA programs in the state will convert to a competitive grant process and fewer than half will be awarded funds, Ashman said. The awarded grants will be 45% less than in previous years. CASA programs include volunteers who mentor and advocate for foster youth.

This story was originally published May 16, 2024, 6:13 AM.

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