Investment

Local service providers condemn CORE investment recommendations – Santa Cruz Sentinel

WATSONVILLE – Representatives from Community Bridges held a press conference on Monday morning in response to funding proposals for the Collective of Results and Evidence-based Investments (CORE) that on Tuesday will be brought before the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors for consideration.

The new slate of grants for the 2022-23 fiscal year will reduce funding for Community Bridges’ programs by $816,000, according to representatives from Community Bridges.

“Not only can we see directly that the disproportionate burden of the loss of these services have been on low income South County people of color, but the realignment is heavily laid on the backs of the fastest growing part of the population–our older adults–showcasing the ageism of this proposal,” Community Bridges CEO Ray Cancino said to a crowd of supporters gathered outside its Watsonville offices. “We urge our leadership to direct staff to reassess their investments and to clearly articulate the impacts, the loss of services, and to reinvest in our services altogether.”

Community Bridges

Community Bridges provides administrative support and oversight for a variety of programs across the county including Meals on Wheels, Family Resource Collective and the Child and Adult Care Food Program.

The CORE program is lead and designed by the Santa Cruz County Human Services Department in partnership with the City of Santa Cruz who shares in funding some of the sponsored programs. The request for proposal coming before the board on Tuesday is the second in the program’s history and includes a three year contract term, according to a staff report. The proposed awards for the fiscal year 2022-23 total $4.87 million allocated through the county General Fund and $1.08 million from the City of Santa Cruz. The total funds requested by applicants were more than $15.6 million.

Community Bridges submitted a request for about $1.47 million annually for the coming funding cycle, a total it says is in line with previous awards. The proposal detailed in the staff report awards them $436,221 for Meals on Wheels. A representative from Santa Cruz County confirmed this is among the largest total of recommended awards.

Should its funding be reduced, Community Bridges says it anticipates partial closure of all four Family Resource Centers, loss of subsidized childcare slots, potential early education child care site closures across the county and significant reduction in services at Elderday for seniors and disabled adults with complex medical issues.

“It was disheartening to review the CORE funding recommendations. While I do see the importance of all the programs that are currently being recommended for funding, it is evident that the panel who reviewed the applications does not fully grasp the significance or importance of our family resource centers,” said Family Resource Collective Program Director Mayra Melendrez while speaking at the podium. Melendrez stressed the importance of family resource services which she said serves more than 6,000 participants each year and provides lockers, showers, laundry, food and mailing services to houseless participants. “It feels like we’re going to need to turn our backs on (participants) due to lack of funding and investments from the county.”

In an email to the Sentinel, County Spokesperson Jason Hoppin said that the CORE process, which was approved by the county board in 2015, was designed to guide the distribution of scarce local community funding dollars. He said the county previously approved funding for the same local nonprofit organizations for 35 years, without a competitive process. CORE establishes a fair and competitive opportunity for all organizations and ensures targeted investments areas are established, according to Hoppin.

Elderly Care Services

Clay Kempf is the executive director of the Seniors Council and Area Agency on Aging in Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties. These agencies are the primary funder for several elderly programs currently housed in the Live Oak Senior Center including Meals on Wheels. In a letter mailed to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, Kempf said that while the staff report indicates $2.2 million in funding cuts, it does not list which organizations will lose funding. He urged the board to insist on seeing such a list so that discussion around planning for these loses can be had. He reiterated these concerns when addressing the crowd on Monday.

“It’s great to tweak allocations. Everybody does that, it’s probably healthy to do that, but to do that without looking at the unintended or intended consequences of who you’re defunding is just socially irresponsible,” Kempf said. “I can’t imagine anyone in public or private office not having access to that information before they take action.”

Kempf also highlighted that many elderly care programs are facing funding cuts or complete elimination because many of the state and federal grants these programs receive require local match. All of this he said is happening despite the population of adults age 60 or older growing at a much faster rate than the under 60 population. “Aging is an equity issue,” he said.

Hoppin recognized that many worthy programs are not receiving a recommendation for funding, but pointed to high standards of objectivity in the grant recipient selection process. Funding recommendations come from a 58 person panel of independent reviewers consisting of county community members, researchers, subject matter experts and staff from the local cities and nonprofits. He said the process is set up so that a variety of local organizations can fairly compete for funds.

Hoppin also said that stakeholders, including those involved in the Monday press conference, understood this process and that applicants may also file appeals to funding decisions.

The CORE funding announcement comes almost a month after Senior Network Services and Meals on Wheels received an eviction notice from the Live Oak School District. They had been inhabiting the Live Oak Senior Center located at 1777 Capitola Road for more than 40 years.

Other meeting agenda items

Other items listed on the June 7 board meeting agenda include a public hearing to consider a new recycling and solid waste service charge at the Buena Vista Landfill, proposed adoption of a resolution for the Prohousing Designation Program and consideration of a resolution approving the submittal of a grant application to the California Transportation Commission for the 2023 Active Transportation Program.

If you go

What: Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors meeting

When: 9 a.m., June 7

How: Zoom – https://us06web.zoom.us/j/85163210200

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