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When it comes to federal dollars intended for “In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency,” Orange County officials have spent far more on sheriff officials than public health workers, according to official reports.
After months of pressure from Voice of OC under the state’s Public Records Act, Orange County officials released a summary of the payouts from CARES funds to county authorities and individual providers this month.
When it comes to government agencies, county administrators They spent $ 93 million of their CARES Act funds on payroll in the sheriff’s department, compared to $ 58 million on Health Care Agency employees the latest available data from the countythat runs through the third quarter of last year.
District officials made the data available after multiple requests from the Voice of OC to gain more transparency about how the district was spending the half-billion dollars in CARES Act funds it received in April.
This article is part of an ongoing series on how federal funds have been spent to fight the coronavirus in Orange County. Tomorrow we will be listing the top vendors receiving CARES Act funding from County Orange. Click here for a full list of CARES Act spending reports published to date.
The CARES Act law The funds can only be used for “necessary expenses incurred due to the public health emergency related to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)”.
Sheriff officials say the aid to their department’s staff has mainly funded salaries in prisons and two operations centers run by the sheriff’s department.
“Everything we have submitted is permitted below the guidance document of the Ministry of Finance,Said Carrie Braun, Orange County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman.
“The vast majority of these are wages and benefits for getting up in both the department operations center and the emergency operations center. [and] for employees in our detention center and the related operations, ”added Braun.
“We are very careful to ensure that what we submit is legal and what we believe is right is in line with the department’s response to the pandemic.”
The final decision on which employees to fund with CARES Act funds was made by the office of County CEO Frank Kim.
For the past two weeks, Voice of OC has asked Kim’s spokeswoman Molly Nichelson which sheriff and public health jobs have been funded by the CARES Act. This information is yet to be provided.
When asked why more money went to sheriff officials for the CARES Act than to public health workers, district officials said they followed suit Guidance from the finance department that the money can fund employees whose jobs “have been redirected to substantially different functions”, “essentially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency”.
“The use of CARES Act funds for payroll in the Sheriff’s and Health Department was determined through application of the CARES Act guidelines and FAQs below,” county spokeswoman Molly Nichelson told the Voice of OC in a written answer to questions.
“The use of the CARES Act funds in these two departments was for payroll, with employees performing tasks essentially devoted to mitigating or responding to COVID-19.”
According to Treasury Department guidelines, local governments can use the CARES Act money to cover employees’ salaries such as police redeployment costs to assist with administration and enforcement of stay-at-home orders. “
Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes has retried said his department would not enforce “stay-at-home” orders.
Since receiving a total of $ 554 million in federal CARES Act funding in April, district officials have said they used it to provide coronavirus testing for the public, motels for the homeless, small business grants, and costs in county departments like Health Care Agency and Sheriff’s Paid Department.
At the start of the pandemic, Kim, the county CEO, said the CARES Act funds could not be used to replenish revenue that has been lost due to the economic downturn.
District officials say they spent almost all of their CARES Act grants.
They plan to cover testing costs from the county’s own general fund through March, though those revenues have been hit by the economic slowdown.
“Our plan is to continue the testing program for at least the first quarter of the new year,” said Frank Kim, the county CEO, last month to Voice of OC. “We need funding because these costs are backed by generic funding that has already been impacted and is at a level below what the departments need to maintain the current level of service.”
Kim also said the county lawmakers are now focused on getting more state and federal aid to the county.
Nick Gerda covers district government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at [email protected].