June 30, 2021 was the close of Santa Clara County's Fiscal Year 2020-2021, (FY 20-21). While Supervisor Otto Lee and the D3 Team have been in service to the community for the majority of FY 20-21, it was our predecessor and the prior Board of Supervisors that approved the budget for FY 20-21. We are excited and looking ahead to FY 2021-2022 because this is the first budget that we have developed alongside the community. Before we look ahead we want to reflect on the first seven months of service.
The budget and how the County invests in the needs of the community is a majority priority for Supervisor Otto Lee and the D3 Team. With 22 County Departments, more than 21,000 employees and a budget of more than $6.5 billion, the County of Santa Clara serves as the frontline and backbone for our community’s biggest needs.
When I was sworn into office in early December, Santa Clara County was continuing our vigilance against the COVID-19 pandemic, while eagerly awaiting vaccinations and support from the federal government. Our community led the way in safe and mindful measures to ensure we could overcome the pandemic. We're excited to see San José surpass 85% of residents receiving their vaccine, known as “herd immunity”. As of early July, Santa Clara County stands at over 75%.
We hope that our community continues to do an outstanding effort to beat this virus, so we may continue to have a safe, healthy, and fun summer, and beyond. We’re moving forward, stronger and better.
FISCAL YEAR 2020 - 2021 IN REVIEW
Two tragic events in 2021 put our focus on protecting and healing our families - the Atlanta Spa shootings in March and the VTA Rail Yard shooting in May.
The increase in violence and hate toward the AAPI community reached a terrifying and unacceptable peak when 8 Asian Americans were murdered in the suburbs of Atlanta. Though 2,500 miles away, Santa Clara County was shaken by this, because it was a blatant mass shooting, influenced by hate. Hate has no place in Santa Clara County, and we are committed to ensuring the educational programs are in place to end hate in our community.
On May 26, Santa Clara County lost 9 members of our family. VTA is family, and we are still healing from this tragic event. When a community faces a crisis, no matter how prepared we are, recovery is always a challenge. We are grateful to our community for responding with such support and love. We’re working on options to expand our gun buy-back programs, expanding mental health services, and to find ways to address better workplace safety measures. Gun violence has impacted our community, but I do not want it to define our community or my service to you. Just as I do not want the COVID-19 pandemic to define our time either.
These moments are somber, and the 14 months of stay-at-home protocols were a struggle, but we also accomplished a lot.
- Fair Oaks Park & Helping The Unhoused
The story of our unhoused neighbors at Fair Oaks Park is one of our success stories in the effort to address Silicon Valley’s homelessness crisis. Through a collaborative effort with the City of Sunnyvale, community-based organizations, and housing advocates, we helped get neighbors out of the cold and into transitional housing earlier this year.
We are thankful that all of our colleagues care about this issue and we are working to utilize the 2016 Measure A funds to build more supportive housing. We worked with partners in Milpitas to convert a hotel into transitional housing. However, unhoused figures continue to increase. Thankfully, the State's eviction moratorium was extended to September 30, but we still expect too many of our neighbors to face serious challenges to stay housed.
While we spent the majority of the FY 20-21 working together, it was my predecessor that set this past year’s budget. Each Supervisorial office has access to discretionary funds that may be used for community projects. We created the D3 URJGENT (Unhoused - Racial Justice - Green - Equity - Neighborhoods - Transparency) Grants Program. We approved 73 applications, helping to secure $1 million in funding. We will share progress on these programs in the coming months.
- Supporting Our Women & Girls
The CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination) Task Force has provided their responses and recommendations relating to women’s economic development and security, supportive housing systems for women, and justice system involvement of women and girls in the County. Supporting our women and girls is the best pathway to a stronger future for our community. We look forward to taking action on these recommendations.
We have invested more resources for Black Infant Health and Prenatal Equity Program expansion. We are finding better housing options for our justice-engaged women and youth. We extended HERO pay to our essential workers, a majority of them women, for their commitment to our community during the pandemic. Lastly, and as a long overdue policy, Santa Clara County will now provide free women's menstrual products in County-owned facilities.
- Federal Immigration Reform
With new federal administration and passage of HR 6, the American Dream and Promise Act, by the US House, we are hopeful that federal immigration reform may finally arrive - so we have been working to prepare Santa Clara County for these long overdue changes. At the April 20, 2021 Board of Supervisors meeting Supervisor Otto Lee brought forth a proposal to have the County review legislative proposals and how they may impact immigrants locally, including HR 6, HR 1603, and HR 1177. U.S. Senator Alex Padilla’s Citizenship for Essential Workers Act (S 747) was included as part of staff’s review and analysis of federal legislative proposals relating to immigration. The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed Supervisor Lee's referral.
This referral asks staff to provide the Board with information on existing and proposed funding to immigration legal service providers. Due to the budget deficit, many of these providers sustained reductions to their contracts. With renewed interest in immigration reform, these legal service providers should be viewed as strengthening the safety net. Undocumented immigrants have been on the frontlines throughout this pandemic and have been particularly vulnerable to the downturn in the economy. Because of their status, undocumented immigrants are not eligible for unemployment benefits or federal stimulus payments. This may make it difficult for them to obtain legal services and pay the $725 application fee for U.S. citizenship. That is why funding for immigration legal service providers is important more than ever so they can provide their services to clients at low or no-cost. Click HERE to view a video for Supervisor Lee's full comments from the April 20 BOS meeting. All of this work would not be possible without the amazing staff at the Santa Clara County Office of Immigrant Relations. They are doing great work to help our community. You can also read the Mercury News Op-ed I co-authored with D3 Team members Mario Lopez and Kevin Lee.
- Cultural and Community Recognitions
It has been a unique privilege to help Santa Clara County’s diversity of people, cultures and celebrations shine. We celebrated Black History Month in February, Women’s History Month in March, AAPI Heritage Month in May, and PRIDE Month in June.
In April we recognized Black April with our Vietnamese community, and it was an honor to speak at this year's Black April events.
We celebrated our 15th annual Palestinian Cultural Day on May 13, the 30th Eritrean Independence Day on May 24, Philippine Independence Day on June 12, and Juneteenth and Armed Services Day on June 19.
We shared our Memorial Day message, and had the honor of speaking at Memorial Day services in Los Gatos.
We look forward to what’s ahead for FY 21-22. We accomplished all of this work, and more together. We will thrive if we can continue to work together. It’s an honor to serve the community, and we look forward to FY 2021-2022.