Santa Barbara County officials gave a presentation to Congressmember Lois Capps on Thursday, August 6, outlining the uses of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds in Santa Barbara County. The funding, as of Thursday, stood at $787 billion nationwide, with $150.31 million of that awarded within Santa Barbara County.
The briefing was supposed to demonstrate the accountability and transparency required by ARRA, which county officials have also addressed with the Santa Barbara County Economic Recovery Web site. “Transparent measurement and disclosure of economic data provides the public with information on how ARRA benefits the region,” the Web site states. Capps expressed interest in this accountability as an enduring measure rather than a temporary step, asking, “Can we use these systems in the future?” to which John McInnes, assistant county executive officer, replied, “Absolutely.”
While only a few projects were presented, the briefing demonstrated the need for the funds. First, the Public Health Department outlined the investment in health to address increased demand-in the 2008-09 fiscal year, public clinic visits totaled 132,000-and a rise in the uninsured and underinsured population of Santa Barbara. Fund investments focused largely on renovations and, to address rising clinic visits, allocations are awarded partially on a per-patient basis.
Next came the Public Works Department, whose Surface Transportation Program focuses largely on preservation, to extend the life of existing bridges and roads and avoid larger costs in the near future.
The Workforce Investment Board presented “the rebirth of the Summer Youth Program,” which according to Raymond McDonald, executive director, employs Santa Barbara youths in various county departments. “What an important investment,” commented Capps.
The final presentation, made by Fran Forman, Community Action Commission executive director, presented her organization’s plans to allocate grants to local nonprofits; the grants are aimed to support the low-income population of Santa Barbara by aiding nonprofits recently “gutted” by the state government.
Following the presentations, Capps said she had been “very impressed” and appreciated that the funds had been allocated “to a wide variety of places.” She also stressed further the importance of transparency and the investment of ARRA funds in areas of need. Addressing an earlier inquiry by Dr. Elliot Schulman, Public Health Department director, Capps said, “We are reforming healthcare,” and expressed hopes that reforms would address challenges faced by local clinics and the county’s low-income residents.