Budget and Fiscal Review Committee Update

Late last week the members of the Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, plus a few additional non-committee members interested in the issue of housing – such as Senator Allen – held an informational hearing about housing and homelessness. This is the third hearing in just two weeks on this topic – making it very clear that the members of the Legislature are weighing this subject area with heavy importance and are committed to figuring out a solution to the State’s housing and homelessness crisis. During this hearing, various departments spoke about the Governor’s proposed budget and what they intend to do with that money. They also detailed out how they have already used the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) and Homeless Housing Assistance and Prevention (HHAP) funding from last year’s budget.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office spoke to their recommendations for the Legislature in conjunction with the Governor’s proposed budget and what they found during their study. Their recommendations were echoed in the concerns from the Members about agreeing to release 750 million dollars early, with no plan or specifications on what that money would go to, how it would be allocated to regional managers, who could apply for the funds and how ultimately the money would be spent. The LAO recommended the Legislature have a clear list of priorities in this subject area, and only allocate funds to resources that move these priorities forward. Next, the Deputy Secretary for Homelessness, Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency provided a startling statistic: that 30% of the state’s homeless population is black, but only 6% of the state’s entire population is black. This speaks to the origins of our housing crisis, beginning with problematic rules, like redlining, that were designed to segregate people by race even after segregation became illegal. Senator Mitchell had clear problems with this fact, and she was adamant to figure out a solution to this problem and asked what the State is doing to help and provide resources to this specific community.

The second panel gave a high-level overview of each of the Governor’s proposed budget asks, including the California Access to Housing Fund (750 million to the Department of Social Services to provide more housing to Californians), Cal Aim (MediCal reform proposal of 695 million) and the Community Care Collaborative Pilot Program (24.6 million to establish a 6 year pilot program in 3 counties to provide incentives to treat and serve individuals deems incompetent to stand trial). Each of the departments that would receive these proposed funds spoke about the purposes of each one specifically, and how they plan to accomplish the Governor’s goals through the money given to them from the administration. The last panel was an overview of a few different localities and how they have already implemented the HEAP and HHAP funding they’ve received. Overall, it was just an informational hearing, so no specifics were agreed upon or confirmed, and there weren’t many questions that had highly detailed answers to them. It is clear that there will be more discussion about these funds before the Legislature decides to approve or amend the budget proposal in front of them.