Los Angeles County’s CEO this week previewed a $36.2 billion recommended budget for fiscal year 2021-22, highlighting spending to expand safety net services, support economic recovery and address racial and other inequities.
However, the budget may not go far enough to satisfy some social justice advocates. Chief Executive Officer Fesia Davenport has pointed to $100 million in spending on Measure J, for example, as a “down payment’’ on the county’s promise to address racial injustice. Community members had earlier called the number an “insult’’ to voters that fell hundreds of millions short of expectations.
Davenport noted that under the measure approved by voters last November, the county has three years to ramp up allocations so that at least 10 percent of locally generated, unrestricted funds are invested in community programs and alternatives to incarceration.
“This represents the single largest allocation for a new program in this recommended budget,’’ Davenport said.
The Sheriff’s Department budget is recommended to remain roughly flat to the prior year, at $3.4 billion, which is also likely to generate pushback from those who have called for shifting dollars from law enforcement to community-based services and programs. Yet Davenport stressed that the overall budget is designed to address the disproportional impact of the pandemic on communities of color and longstanding inequality.
“Clearly, this pandemic has exposed and increased huge inequities between the haves and the have-nots, and the county’s safety net was called upon as never before over the last 12 months,’’ the CEO said.
Addressing the growing problem of homelessness remains a central concern. Highlighted spending includes a total of $426.7 million in Measure H funding, which includes an additional $16.6 million to increase the stock of interim housing and motel vouchers as well as more supportive housing services.
Davenport also focused on a mental health crisis that has paralleled the county’s COVID-related economic crisis. The county’s mental health helpline saw a 30 percent jump in calls last year, and the budget includes $29.9 million to expand crisis and intervention services.