Not Your Typical May Revise
2020 has become a year of perpetual disruption and change. From the initial onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the statewide “stay at home” order, to a $6 billion budget surplus vanishing into a deficit estimated in the “tens of billions,” one thing’s for sure: The COVID-19 pandemic means the May Revise state budget scheduled for this Thursday will be uncharted territory for California.
Governor Newsom and the Legislature have already signaled that the path forward will not be an easy one. Counties are already reeling from the twin impacts of skyrocketing unemployment and increased demands for public health and safety net services. Many businesses that closed their doors as part of the pandemic response may not reopen, compounding record unemployment and devastating revenue shortfalls for counties and the state.
The Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) released an analysis estimating an $18-31 billion budget deficit, lost revenue between $26-39 billion and the potential for recovery to be several years in the making. Discretionary funding will be a thing of the past for some time to come. While California’s significant reserves are not enough to bridge the budget gap, they will help soften the blow. Federal funding will also be a critical factor for California’s recovery and for county fiscal stability.
At the state level, California, as part of the Western States Pact with Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Colorado, has requested $1 trillion in federal support for states, counties and other local agencies to support public health, safety net services, public safety and education–the very services that are now most in need. California’s counties will be absolutely critical in holding our communities together and kick-starting the economy. California won’t be able to recover if county public health departments can’t access testing and coordinate trained workers to track and isolate cases as restrictions are lifted. The same goes for the much needed social services and health workers protecting the at-risk elderly, youth, and disabled populations, while also providing shelter and services to those experiencing homelessness.
We appreciate Governor Newsom’s leadership and emphasis on the important role that counties play in providing critical services to our communities and remain ready and prepared to further implement delegated authority for counties to protect the public health and the broader community in a responsible manner.
Time remains of the essence to communicate the urgent need for Federal support. Be sure to reach out to your Federal delegation and remind them that California cannot recover without county funding to support public health, the safety-net system, and public safety in the midst of COVID-19. You don’t cut off the water supply in the middle of fighting a wildfire and now’s not the time to let up or hold back on ensuring the safety of our communities. Access the Federal Funding sample letter here, as well as talking points and tweets. We are also focused on a state advocacy effort to protect core county fiscal stability and ensure sufficient funding for counties to deliver services and supports so imperative for our communities to rebound and thrive. See our State Advocacy Alert materials here: sample letter, talking points, draft tweets.
In all of this budget uncertainty, what remains the same is CSAC’s commitment to advocating for California’s counties and communicating the budget information with Supervisors, CSAC policy committees, CAO/CEOs and our broader county family. Each policy committee is setting up ZOOM calls to provide updates and receive input, the Budget Action Bulletin will map out the new starting point in the May Revise for all members on Thursday and identify core areas of focus for our advocacy. The CSAC Bulletin on Friday will provide further insight and analysis. While we made the difficult decision to cancel the May Legislative Conference in its traditional sense, we have plans in the works for a virtual advocacy day — more on that soon.
Our goal, as always, is to keep you informed, engaged and empowered while we continue to advocate at the state and federal levels for the resources all 58 counties need to serve your communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and California’s recovery. As always, hearing from you strengthens our advocacy, arms our CSAC Officers to lead on your behalf, and illuminates our best path forward. Together, we will continue to use our powerful voice to protect our communities, provide needed flexibility, and aggressively pursue resources to mitigate devastating impacts in our communities to the greatest degree possible.