The mayors of California’s big cities outline state homelessness budget priorities during COVID-19

State of Reform, June 11, 2020

By Rachel Davis


As the Governor and State Legislature negotiate a final budget, the Mayors of California’s largest cities, representing over 11 million people, laid out their most pressing statewide budget issues during a virtual press conference. The Mayors’ two major priorities are: 1) supporting the Legislature’s inclusion of $350 million in flexible funding for local governments dedicated to homelessness intervention and solutions implemented under previous one-time state allocations as outlined in the legislature’s budget; and 2) support for the Governor’s proposal to use $600 million in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds to acquire hotels and motels — and other homeless housing solutions. These priorities surfaced as California meets the unprecedented demand of dealing with twin crises, the COVID-19 pandemic, and homelessness, while the economy faces severe free fall.


With the added impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, The Big City Mayors Coalition (BCM) wrote to Governor Gavin Newsom detailing their updated budget priorities. They continue to meet regularly with the Governor’s office, state legislative leadership and Budget Committee chairs throughout the budget process to ensure that the cities’ priorities are included. The Governor’s May Budget Revision reflected the BCM’s priorities. The BCM began advocacy for these issues in early March during a trip to Sacramento where they presented information on homeless investments and strategies deployed in their cities with state funding. The BCM also recently wrote to the Governor and legislative leadership to advocate for priorities, specifically the $350M included in the legislature’s budget.


The May Revision currently proposes $600 million for facilities and services to permanently house homeless populations including an allocation for Project Roomkey to purchase hotels/motels statewide. To support this priority, the Mayors sent a letter to state legislative leaders urging “as much flexibility in the use of these funds locally as the CARES Act will permit—by allowing the acquisition, rehab, and/or financing of other types of homeless housing, as well as the use of funds for operations and services.”


These flexible dollars are needed to support an ongoing source of homelessness dollars to ensure projects and interventions developed through previous one-time state funding, such as bridge housing, can continue to serve homeless residents. The Mayors also proposed an investment in homeless solutions that provides flexible dollars to California’s biggest cities.


As the budget process proceeds in the state capitol, the Big City Mayors coalition will continue to highlight the priorities of California’s residents and advocate for funding for the most pressing issues the state faces: COVID-19 and homelessness.


The Big City Mayors is a coalition of Mayors across California’s 13 largest cities. Members include Mayors from Los Angeles, San Diego, San José, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento, Long Beach, Oakland, Bakersfield, Anaheim, Riverside, Santa Ana, and Stockton.

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