FAIRFIELD – The Solano County Board of Supervisors ended a month-long impasse regarding the allocation of federal pandemic relief funds on Tuesday, sending millions of dollars to Vallejo for homelessness projects and to NorthBay Healthcare, but fell short of what either had asked for.
The board voted unanimously at its meeting Tuesday on a proposal to partially fund a homeless navigation center in Vallejo, provide relief to NorthBay for expenses incurred from an influx of emergency room visits caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to fund a microgrant program for farmers in unincorporated areas of the county.
Last month, the supervisors set out to divide up the approximately $10.6 million remaining from $86.9 million in federal funds that was distributed to the county through the American Rescue Plan Act.
But while Supervisors Erin Hannigan, Monica Brown and Wanda Williams sought to provide most of the funds for homeless services, Supervisors Mitch Mashburn and John Vasquez sought more for NorthBay. After weeks of debate, the supervisors settled on a plan that fell short of the allocations any of them had sought.
"We're all disappointed," Hannigan, who represents Vallejo, said.
Vallejo sought $4 million in construction and furnishing costs for a 47-unit permanent supportive housing project under construction in North Vallejo and $2 million for construction of a 125-bed navigation center. Hannigan, Brown and Williams voted to fully fund both projects based on the recommendation of the Community Action Partnership Solano Joint Powers Authority, a coalition of all seven area cities and the county to manage social safety net services.
Vallejo’s homelessness projects have been beset with delays. The city had told the supervisors that the Broadway project is anticipated to open in May, but city officials said at a recent city council meeting that it would not open until August. The city has not set a specific timeline for the navigation center, which has been a quagmire for years with a bloated budget and the discovery that the initial planned site was contaminated and unfit for human habitation.
“We've heard about the city of Vallejo and the homeless population,” Hannigan said last week. “It is untenable, it's horrific, frankly. Homeless in Vallejo live on every corner, every median strip, every vacant building, and they need help.”
But Mashburn, who represents unincorporated areas of the county, sought to reduce the allocation for the Broadway project to $3 million, which would cover construction but not furnishing, and the allocation for the navigation center to nothing.
Mashburn sought $4 million for NorthBay, which is seeking up to $14 million to cover the costs of an influx of ER visits by uninsured people since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as up to $2 million in relief funds for local farmers. Vasquez advocated for an even larger share to North Bay of $6 million.
"What are we going to do with our homeless population if they don't have the ability to get medical treatment?” Mashburn said last week. “What are we going to do for the homeless population in north county?”
According to NorthBay, it was hit with $53 million in COVID-related losses in 2021 alone. It has a recovery plan, but still has a $14 million gap.
Regarding his plan for agricultural relief, Mashburn faced criticism that there was no proposal or plan in place for the funds he’d asked for. "I love the idea of helping farmers but there's no numbers,” Hannigan said. “There's no request.”
Mashburn acknowledged Tuesday that he had not communicated with farmers to even determine If there was a need for relief. He said he had a plan to provide microgrants to farmers but submitted no written plan.
Last week, the supervisors voted to send $3 million to Vallejo in construction costs for the Broadway project but remained stuck on what to do with the remaining $6.4 million.
After hearing once again from Vallejo city officials, including City Manager Mike Malone and City Councilmember Mina Loera-Diaz, the supervisors devised a compromise that would send an additional $1.5 million to Vallejo for construction of the navigation center, $4.5 million to NorthBay, and $383,000 for agricultural relief. The vote drew applause in the supervisors’ chambers.
“We compromised and we took everybody under consideration,” Brown, who represents Benicia and part of Vallejo, said. “This was not easy.”
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- Solano County Board of Supervisors
- Northbay Healthcare
- navigation center
- American Rescue Plan
- Erin Hannigan
- Monica Brown
- John Vasquez
- Wanda Williams
- Mitch Mashburn
- Broadway Street Project
- Mike Malone
- Mina Loera-Diaz
Scott Morris is a journalist based in Oakland who covers policing, protest, civil rights and far-right extremism. His work has been published in ProPublica, the Appeal and Oaklandside.
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