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Guest Column: Sacramento County used federal COVID relief funds responsibly

By Sue Frost–
In recent days, Sacramento County and other local governments have been under the spotlight regarding how we have used our portion of the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) money from the federal government via the CARES Act.

Each local government that received funding through the CARES Act, including Citrus Heights, was able to spend the funds in a manner that fit their needs, and met federal requirements. Sacramento County received $181 million, and I want to take this opportunity to explain to you how the county is spending this money and to clear up some confusion that people may have.

The confusion stems from an article in a local Sacramento newspaper that misleadingly stated that Sacramento County is using most of the CRF funding to pay for law enforcement. The article downplayed some simple truths that need to be pointed out and left people with the incorrect belief that we hired more public safety officers instead of spending money on much needed public health priorities.

As a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we activated the County Office of Emergency Services and our Countywide Emergency Operations. All departments were instructed to submit their COVID-19 expenditures as the crisis evolved. Expenditures that were eligible for CRF money were approved, while others were eligible for other State and Federal funds.

Importantly, all requests submitted by the Department of Health Services (which includes Public Health) were approved. Our number one priority was the health and safety of the people of Sacramento County, and nothing got in the way of that.

Additionally, CRF money only covered existing positions in qualified classifications. We prioritized CRF requests to General Fund relief so that we could preserve those General Fund dollars for future needs.

Public Safety and Health did not receive funding for new positions from the $132 million. Rather, the county used $132 million of Coronavirus Relief Fund money for payroll that would have come from our General Fund.

The reason the Sheriff’s office received so much money is that the Sheriff’s office happens to be by far the largest percentage of our general fund payroll. That is the case for a variety of reasons, chiefly being that you usually cannot use state/federal money to pay for it. It’s that way for other public jurisdictions also.

The county is now able to use that $132 million to avoid significant reductions in services from General Fund Departments, such as Child and Adult Protective Services, Health Services, Public Safety, Human Assistance, In-Home Supportive Services, and Homeless Services.

Other vital services would otherwise have been cut, like the offices that oversee the administration of Medi-Cal or CalWORKS benefits, and are services used not only by the residents of the unincorporated county but the City of Citrus Heights as well.

General Fund dollars are more flexible than CRF dollars, so we are being strategic in where we spend them so we can free up other money elsewhere.

With law enforcement being a majority of our general fund, they are also likely the one that gets cut the most during economic downturns. With the county projecting a loss of over $160 million in revenue, not putting the $132 million into payroll could have meant laying off a devastating amount of Sheriff’s deputies and staff. That is a grim reality that I do not wish upon the communities of Sacramento County, under any circumstance.

We still have around $33 million left to spend out of our CRF money. You have my promise that I will continue to advocate for funding public health, public safety, and all other vital departments who are on the front line during this crisis.

Sue Frost, supervisor
Sue Frost

Sacramento County Supervisor Sue Frost formerly served as a Citrus Heights councilwoman and currently represents District 4, which includes Citrus Heights. She can be contacted at (916) 874-5491, or

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