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Post-Pandemic Public Health Funding

 July 1, 2021 at 5:01 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Thursday, July 1st >>>> What public health lessons have been learned from the pandemic More on that next, But first... let’s do the headlines…. ###### The state’s gas tax will go up by a few cents today, bringing the overall tax to 51.1 cents per gallon. The increase is due to senate bill 1 passed by lawmakers in 2017. It upps the tax to pay for road and bridge work. Republican State Senator Brian Jones of Santee has called for a suspension of the excise tax…. “for the governor to use his executive powers, to waive the excise fee for the next year, and use some of the multiple billion dollars surplus that the state is proposing in the budget this year and backfill that excise tax.” ######## The California Interscholastic Federation, the CIF, has vacated the Coronado High School boys basketball team championship win, following a racist gesture made to a largely Latino team. After winning a recent regional championship game, some Coronado players threw tortillas at their opponents, players from Orange Glen high school. In addition to the vacated win, the basketball team has been placed on probation for three academic years. ########## There will be no fireworks in La Jolla this 4th of July. San Diego officials say the la jolla boosters did not get the permits they need in time to hold a fireworks show at la jolla point . The Sierra Club's Richard Miller is happy the sea lion rookery won’t be disturbed by a fireworks show. “the environmental situation there has changed dramatically and i don’t think they took that into consideration.” The la jolla community fireworks foundation did not return calls seeking comment. ######### From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need. The pandemic revealed critical gaps in the public health care system in the US and in San Diego. Some communities had access to resources that other communities didn’t. Advocates have long been calling for more funding for public health departments. They say now is the time to take advantage of the attention and funding that the pandemic brought to public health … because it won’t be there forever. KPBS health reporter Matt Hoffman has the story. The topic of the underfunding of public health jurisdictions has been decades old San Diego County Health officer Dr Wilma Wooten says substantial long-term funding has eluded local public health departments and with a spotlight on the pandemic, now is the time to change that. Oh Now is absolutely the opportunity The public health department hasn’t seen a decrease in funding like others have, but that’s due in large part to a team of grant writers that get state and federal dollars. Health and human services agency director Nick Macchione says funding from the state and federal government is typically reactive-- When there’s a crisis then funding will flow vs using our attidge investing the dollars and building the infrastructure. I don't think there’s any community across the country that says they have the adequacy of their public health infrastructure At the height of the pandemic, the public health department more than doubled their budget and nearly doubled staffing. That was just for covid-19 -- what’s on our plate? Everything. do we need far more resources for public health? Absolutely yes Macchione says the pandemic could be the eye opener for state and federal officials -- similar to how the September 11th attacks on the world trade center prompted a major shift-- Think about how security and how the airports changed and just the whole nature of the awareness the pandemic and COVID-19 has done and will do the same for us in this country -- and we hope it’s for the good He says the pandemic revealed gaps in the way people have access to resources-- It was no surprise when people did not have food security or a job and therefore if they were sick had to go to work or felt forced to go to work because they had no ability to take care of their families and those unfortunately were enablers of viral spread The county made early investments in programs to build trust with communities that they weren’t connecting with. And they hired promotoras also called community health workers to get the word out in Latino communities-- We contracted -- we put our money where our mouth is and provided those contracts so that communities would have individuals that looked like them going out and conducting that outreach And they were the game changers -- they became extenders of our nurses The state later provided one time grants for similar outreach programs, but officials want to keep them going long term.. Especially if another crisis happens. In general Macchione says root issues need to be addressed, not just being reactive to situations like the mental health crisis and rising numbers of encampments on San Diego streets. It’s those social determinants -- so it’s housing, it's helping people with jobs, it is in fact that training of bringing folks forward. So those are things that you don't think about in the realm of public health, but if you were to address that you would really improve the public's health! Wooten says the public health department needs to maintain a trained workforce and have the right infrastructure to be completely effective and nimble-- So for us in San Diego it’s our registry our immunization registry or our surveillance system and our laboratory systems and IT systems that we are looking to improve upon that’s not a small dollar amount that’s a large dollar amount The pandemic is winding down, but not the public health department. Officials are reallocating resources to address mental health challenges and people living on the streets. There’s other needs that were put on pause and then others things that are beginning to rise unfortunately and so -- we’re again -- where public health goes into action is where the need is -- immediately shifting those resources there Officials from the governor’s office say they recognize investments in core public health functions have stayed the same or decreased over the last decade, and are currently conducting a review to assess the state’s public health response.. Any Gaps would be addressed in the 20-22 budget. MH KPBS News ########## San Diego City Councilmembers say it’s time for action on racial disparities in policing. It follows another report outlining how Black and Latinx people are stopped by police more often. KPBS Race and Equity reporter Cristina Kim tells us what the council wants to do next... Councilmembers want data-driven policy changes and ongoing community conversations. Council Member Joe LaCava says the time for action is now. L3: Councilmember Joe LaCava, District 1 “With the completion of the CPE study, I think we need to give studies a break and turn our attention to action.” This report was released earlier this month. It is one in a series that shows racial disparities in San Diego policing. It found police are more than 4 times as likely to pull over a Black San Diegan for a non-traffic violation than a white person. That’s even when controlling for factors like poverty or crime rates. When the report was published, Police Chief David Nisleit told KPBS he was not surprised. But he stopped short of saying its findings show there’s discrimation. L3: Chief David Nisleit, SDPD “Disparities are going to exist because everything in society doesn’t happen along the demographic line….And that’s why it’s important to understand that disparity doesn’t equal discrimination.” More than 25 community members gave public comments during the meeting. Many, like Ahmad Mahmoud, say they want to see an end to pretext stops and consensual searches. Mahmoud is critical of Chief Nisleit’s response. L3: Ahmad Mahmoud “It doesn’t make any sense to me at all how the chief of police can say that disparities don’t equal discrimination that’s basically on the verge of erasure of our experiences as non-white people in this city that have to deal with the constant overpolicing especially by the gang suppression unit.” In response to the report, which the police have had since March, the department will be releasing a new consent search policy in the coming weeks… something community members and city council members are eager to review. Cristina Kim. KPBS News. ########## One sign that the US military is slowly returning to normal is that the USO is making its first stops since the pandemic began. KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh says that includes two stops in San Diego. The USO, known for its live events at bases around the world, turned to virtual events during the pandemic. They were at Naval Base San Diego Tuesday night. Bob Kurkjian the head of USO West says part of their job is to combat isolation among troops. “Mental health and mental resiliency is so important in the military right now. It’s so incredibly important that we get folks back out into the world.” Roughly half the US military is vaccinated. The USO is following the rules in place at local bases. This first USO tour started Sunday at the American base at Guantanamo Bay Cuba. The USO makes a second stop in San Diego, at Miramar tonight. Steve Walsh KPBS news ########## Coming up.... A new study finds that homeowners in San Diego are some of the most cost-burdened in the country. We’ll have more on that next, just after the break. A recent study from LendingTree says about 40 percent of homeowners in San Diego are spending more than a third of their income on mortgages and other associated costs. Those are some of the highest percentages in the country. So, how will rising home costs impact that? Phillip Molnar is a real estate and business reporter for the San Diego Union Tribune. He's been covering this issue and the recent study, and he spoke with KPBS Midday Edition Host Jade Hindmon. Here’s that interview. So homeowners in San Diego are among the most cost burdened in the nation. Where do we rank? Speaker 2: 00:33 So we're third highest in the nation behind Los Angeles and Miami. And this lending tree study was sort of interesting because it uses the most recently available data, but it was for 2019 is the most recently available. So this basically tells us going into the pandemic. Things were already pretty rough if you own a home in San Diego. So we're going to have to wait and see what happened after prices exploded in the last year and a half. Exactly. As you Speaker 1: 01:02 Just mentioned, a large number of San Diego, we're already spending more than a third of their income on mortgages before the pandemic housing prices shot up in 2020, and they are still soaring to all time highs, but the income to housing debt ratio isn't expected to change much. Why is that? Speaker 2: 01:20 Well, income did go up for a lot of people that were able to work, stay at home jobs during the pandemic. However, we also know unemployment reached a record high in San Diego of around 15% at one point during the pandemic. So if you look at income to, you know, spending on mortgages and all that stuff, it might be better for some people coming out of this pandemic, but it's also going to be bad for some people. So we're still waiting to see how it's all going to shake out what I've heard from some housing analysts. And it sounds super cold, but the people that couldn't afford a house before the pandemic sure as heck can't afford one now. So we might just be, when we look at these numbers, we might just be looking at a dwindling homeownership, but maybe the people that actually got homes might be doing better than they were before on their cross payments. We just kind of have to wait and see. Hm. Speaker 1: 02:13 And let's talk about that a bit more, uh, about lower income homeowners and those who may have lost income due to business closures. How are they impacted by this? Speaker 2: 02:23 A lot of low-income people were hurt the very worst during COVID. We have a study from the San Diego association of governments, and they found that nearly 40% of jobs that paid below 27,000 a year, that's a around $15 an hour. Those were lost by April. But if you look at jobs that were, you know, paid 27,000 up to 60,000, only 6% of those jobs were lost. And any jobs that paid more than 60,000 a year, only 3% were lost. So we can see from these numbers that during the pandemic, low income people were hurt the hardest by this stuff. So they probably are so far outside their chance to buy a home at this point that, you know, we don't even know if this study will change that much, because if they couldn't get a house before, it's going to be way harder now with prices that have gone up more than 20% in San Diego county in the last 12 months, Speaker 1: 03:19 You know, this really is exposing disparities between the wealthy and those who bring in a lower income and that some who are wealthy are coming out of this pandemic, actually spending less on housing than they were before. Can you talk about that Speaker 2: 03:34 Before the pandemic started, about 31% of homeowners were spending 20% or less of their monthly income on housing costs. And if we think about that, you know, there's a comparative study. I'm looking at at the moment with renters, but a lot of people in San Diego are spending way more than 20% of their income on housing. So we can see that homeowners were doing much better than the general population, even before the pandemic. So there's a very strong possibility with mortgage rates being so low that some of those homeowners were able to refinance and get their monthly costs even lower than they already were. So, yeah, we're going to see a huge disparity coming out of the pandemic for people Speaker 1: 04:17 Who recently bought a home. Is there a point where the high cost of housing cancels out the benefit of those low mortgage rates? Speaker 2: 04:25 Yeah, definitely because, you know, we hear a lot from real estate agents and of course it's always buy now buy now, but you know, mortgage rates are so crazy low right now that one of the thoughts is I need to get into a house to take advantage of these. But if you look at the median price home in San Diego county, one of the things is like, yeah, interest rates are low, but if you break it all down, you're still paying like 130,000 more for a down payment on a medium price home. It's just it's bonkers. Because even though that monthly payment might be a little more manageable, not look as bad coming up with that down payment is extreme. So I've been talking to real estate agents throughout the pandemic, you know, and one of my biggest questions is who's affording these houses. And a lot of times it is those younger millennial couples, but they're getting help from their parents. So that down payment is sort of artificial in some ways, because, you know, it's, it's more of an anecdotal story, but that's just what I keep hearing over and over. So it's, it's not like that person that just bought that house for a really high amount actually had that down payment money sitting there. I mean, there's only so many tech billionaires and millionaires around to buy houses. So that might be interesting to see how that plays out in the longterm. Speaker 1: 05:42 Are renters feeling the same cost burden Speaker 2: 05:44 For housing? No, not really. As far as renters go rent prices in San Diego, roughly they've, they're up about 5% a year. That's still rough if you're a renter, you know, but in the past seen rent prices go up more than 7% up to 8% in a year. So at least in that regard, you know, we're seeing that 5%. And of course, especially downtown, if you're looking to rent in east village, especially, or even some of the new complexes in OTI ranch that I've seen in some, in mission valley, a lot of them are just trying to get people to sign new leases. So they're offering up to four to six weeks free and rent. And a lot of times they're actually lowering that security deposit. You know, a lot of times if you move into like kind of a junky apartment in golden hill or something, they're like, okay, we're going to need a month and a half of rent. So you're, you're shelling out like $2,000 just to get into a place. But a lot of those places are lowering the security deposit. I've heard security deposits as low as $500 in mission valley. So for once we can kind of say, it might not be so bad for renters right now. If you're looking at all things considered That was Phillip Molnar, real estate and business reporter for the San Diego Union Tribune. That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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The pandemic has revealed critical gaps in our public health care system -- a system that has long been underfunded. Many are arguing now is the time to change that funding imbalance. Meanwhile, San Diego City Councilmembers say it’s time for action on racial disparities in policing. Plus, a new study finds that San Diego has some of the most cost-burdened homeowners in the country.