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San Diego County Passes On Stimulus Funds, Community Activists Protest

Audio

Aired 7/16/10

The head of San Diego County Health and Human Services says state guidelines on how to use federal stimulus money were so vague that the county could not risk applying for millions in emergency assistance funding.

The head of San Diego County Health and Human Services says state guidelines on how to use federal stimulus money were so vague that the county could not risk applying for millions in emergency assistance funding.

Community advocates protest outside a San Diego County Administration building onJuly 15, 2010. Protesters were reacting to the county's failure to apply for federal emergency assistance funds for welfare families.
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Above: Community advocates protest outside a San Diego County Administration building onJuly 15, 2010. Protesters were reacting to the county's failure to apply for federal emergency assistance funds for welfare families.

Advocates for the poor and unemployed in San Diego gathered to express dismay and outrage that the County passed up millions in federal stimulus money designed to help families on welfare. The voiceofsandiego.org reported San Diego is the largest county in the state not to apply for the funding.

Joni Halpern of the Supportive Parents Information Network (SPIN) said the county missed an opportunity.

“They could have used it in job creation, they could have used it in welfare to work, in case load management, they could have used it in a number of ways - and counties around the state have done that," said Halpern.

Nick Macchione, the director of Health and Human Services, has issued a letter saying the grant opportunity required a significant local match, and state guidelines are unclear.

Ingrid Brinck is with the Advancement Project, a nonprofit that investigates the impact of stimulus money on low income communities. She says other counties have found ways of coming up with the 20 percent of matching funds.

“One of the ways in which counties can cover that 20 percent is by counting the in-kind services of the employer for supervising the employee, for training the employee - they can count that time as part of their local match,” said Brinck.

Counties like Los Angeles and San Francisco have accepted millions in federal emergency assistance funds for welfare families and found thousands of jobs for them.

In his letter Macchione says, “Although other counties may have taken the risk to pursue these funds without the necessary clarity from the State, we did not want to put the County of San Diego and its taxpayers at risk.”

Some of the county supervisors backed their staff’s caution, others expressed disappointment that they weren’t consulted.

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