After two years of praise and acknowledgement for their strong pandemic response, community organizers are suddenly feeling like the mayor’s new budget has pulled the rug out from under them.
In the midst of a new Covid-19 surge, the mayor’s budget cuts all funding for the covid response work provided by community hubs, which focus on providing testing and vaccines for neighborhoods and communities heavily impacted by the pandemic and in need of resources.
Community leaders who run the centers in neighborhoods like the Mission, Bayview-Hunters Point and Lakeview-Outer Mission, were surprised in a Zoom call last week to hear that they would lose their funding at the end of the month.
“I work for the city, and I didn’t see it coming,” said Tracy Gallardo, a member of the Latino Task Force and an aide for District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton. After a successful two-year partnership, she said, “to just be given a 30-day divorce notice, it just feels ugly, right?”
The Latino Task Force oversees five resource hubs in the Mission and Bayview that provide covid support and other services. The coalition has tested more 90,000 people, and vaccinated more than 60,000. The Latino Task Force hubs also distribute food to about 3,000 families each week, Gallardo said. Through the same funding, other nonprofit organizations provide similar services in other areas of the city.
In addition to the loss of services, Gallardo said this announcement means about 200 people across the city’s community hubs will no longer have their jobs come July 1: primarily Spanish speakers and African Americans who stepped up to support their communities when the city struggled to do so, and now will find themselves jobless.
“We’re in a surge, and there’s no plan, as of right now, in the mayor’s budget for the surge,” said Monique LeSarre, the executive director of the Rafiki Coalition for Health and Wellness, an organization that helps run one of the city’s testing sites in Bayview.
The mayor’s new budget proposal provides for $57.3 million in total covid response funding in the upcoming fiscal year, and $25 million in fiscal year 2023-2024. In the fiscal year ending this month, the city dedicated $172 million to covid public health response work, according to the mayor’s office.
The city’s covid response will continue “at a lower level than was sustained over the last two years, recognizing that the pandemic remains ongoing at a less acute level than in the past,” according to the budget proposal.
Over the past two years, the mayor budgeted millions of dollars to go through DPH specifically for community-based organizations for their covid work. Most recently, Gallardo said, the Latino Task Force locations in the Mission were operating on a one-time grant of $771,000, while the Excelsior hub received about $1.2 million. As it stands now, these funds are not set to renew.
The mayor’s office told Mission Local that funding for much of the community covid and workforce support came from federal sources and is no more.
Mayoral spokesperson Parisa Safarzadeh said that up to $6 million allocated for the DPH could remain from last year to continue community-based services in upcoming months. The DPH has not responded to questions from Mission Local.
“San Francisco will continue to invest in COVID-19 response and provide low-barrier access points in priority communities for vaccinations and testing,” said Safarzadeh, though it is not clear what these access points will look like. Citywide needs “that benefit all communities” are being prioritized now, she said, like public safety and economic recovery.
But LeSarre said her site returned 300 positive test results last week, an “extremely high” positivity rate, and noted that some testing sites were near 30-percent positivity during Carnaval weekend. Some San Franciscans who were initially wary of the vaccine are only just getting their first dose of the shot.
Despite this, LeSarre said, “the mayor, for whatever reason, does not seem to be putting it as a priority. I’m not sure why, and I’m not sure what the plan is.”
In addition to covid care, the hubs provide other resources communities depend on, like rental assistance, after-school programs, and referrals to other support, like mental health services. Gallardo said $6.4 million in funding for these other services outside of healthcare, which comes through the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, is to be cut by 50 percent.
Gallardo said she was “in shock,” and had trouble believing that Mayor Breed was ready to dump the city-community partnership Breed championed over the past two years. “I cannot believe in my heart that the mayor is aware of these cuts,” Gallardo said, adding that once the impact to communities of color became clear, she was certain that the move to cut funding would be reversed.
Felisia Thibodeaux, the executive director of Southwest Community Corporation who runs another health hub in the Lakeview/Outer Mission area of the city, said her area of the city has no clinics, urgent care, or healthcare providers. During the pandemic, her hub became a trusted source of support, including essential resources like food and medication.
Thibodeaux said her site had administered 26,000 PCR tests by this spring, and has vaccinated around 4,000 people.
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But now, residents who have just begun their vaccine regimen will have to take at least two buses to make their way to a hospital for their second shot of a ”vaccine they were already hesitant about,” Thibodeaux said.
And not only will the largely Black and Latino communities served by the covid health hubs lose access to care, but those same community members employed by the hubs will soon lose their jobs.
Thibodeaux said she’s already given notice to several employees that they will lose employment at the end of the month. She worried what would become of the troubled kids she brought in off the streets to work for her.
“It’s almost as if [they’re saying]: ‘We included you for a second during covid, but now we’re gonna go back to not including you,’” Gallardo said. “When no one else steps up, we’re gonna call on you … but now we’re business as usual.”
Update: This story was updated on June 10, 2022 to include a response from the mayor’s office.
Thanks for this great piece, Eleni.
This is outrageous. The pandemic is still raging; the community transmission numbers in San Francisco are sky-high right now. Defunding all these sites and leaving nothing in their place is not a plan we can accept. It’s going to put so many San Franciscans at risk. We cannot allow widespread infection, illness and death to become the norm.
If you agree, please contact your supervisor, or contact the mayor’s office about this. I just did.
Office of London Breed: (415) 554-6141
It looks like the plan is to force people back into service jobs or out of town.
Who is running for Mayor next?
Instead of building a hub in bay view the focus should have been a clinic! Thw supervisor doesn’t have his neighborhood in mind or would have thought a long term strategy instead of bandage solution….. Gallardo sounds more crooked than the mayor how does a woman who works for city hall (bay view) lead the LTF in the mission all as a public employee? Are there no conflict of interests here I’m confused
At the least, I’d think giving people working at these places more than 30 days notice would be the decent thing to do. And if you don’t understand the value of these community hubs, then you have probably never been poor.
Truly sad! Specially during this surge! Well, I will be one of those workers left without a job! If anyone, knows of any jobs please reply back! It would be highly appreciated!!
Actually, there are a lot of jobs going begging right now – and ones that pay quite well and don’t require tech-worker skills. Hotels and restaurants are begging for willing and qualified workers – please come and apply!
Remember when I said that with progs redistricted out of power, that we’d be seeing the prog branded poverty nonprofits parted out on tarps on Mission Street’s sidewalks?
Whether she’s successful or not, Breed now throws incoming into the prog branded liberals like Ronen who will drop whatever else she’s trying to do in order to defend her real base–the city funded nonprofits that provide political services.
why are we spending all this money? what have we gotten for our hard earned money? the conditions are worse. more people are drying. crime is up. violence is up. when will we wake up?
However you feel about the efficacy of the programs – the optics are awful.
What? Not enough brown people are dying or suffering?
$771,000? $1.2 million? This is pizza money – seriously – no joke.
$14 billion and there aren’t a few crumbs for an extra wee bit of public health in the poorest neighborhoods?
To update your comment a bit: Not enough brown people are dying or suffering *acutely*
Do you remember when they started to offer other health screenings, unless am I remembering wrong? Less than pizza money, and the long term savings for the people and community? Not priceless enough, apparently.
“recognizing that the pandemic remains ongoing at a less acute level than in the past,”
Is this statement true or false according to health experts? More people are testing positive, but far less end up in hospitals.
Secondly, ‘We included you for a second during covid, but now we’re gonna go back to not including you,’” Gallardo said. Did Gallardo falsely promise these folks they would have a job that lasts a long time? Did anyone think these would be long term jobs? I call bullshit on Gallardo.
I call bullshit on pretending like public health initiatives should only exist during “acute pandemics”–what kinda argument is that? These jobs and community hubs could have *easily* been re-purposed for other health concerns. When you build infrastructure like this, you keep it because public health interventions are always needed. Specially in the neighborhoods that these community hubs are serving. What a selfish comment, forreal.
Good point, Marcos. Agreed – waste/destruction of health infrastructure already in place and shown to work.
Marcos, if they would have said they are going to build these for permanent purposes for health initiatives, I would be fine with it. And I’m not necessarily opposed to them being permanent. I just hate when government does a bait and switch. Asks for money for a “temporary” purpose and then claim the temporary thing that was built needs to be permanent and therefore cost more money. It was disingenuous of Gallardo to give the impression to the workers that these would be anything but short term temporary jobs when Gallardo new they were set up to be temporary and the funding was finite. People that are down in the doldrums don’t need to be lied to and given false hope.
Why would we want to outsource what should be public function to private politically connected nonprofits? Why is the SFDPH not providing direct city services to city residents? How much are we paying to launder these funds through these agencies? And why is that better than direct city provided services?
Ms. Balakrishnan, thank you for letting us know.
Incredibly disappointed at how short-sighted, dare I say elitist, this decision seems.
Please excuse my rant:
Has Mayor Breed and the Board gone so far down the road toward pleasing their right-wing-but-call-themselves-woke wealthy donors that they are willing to rip the rug out from under those who don’t necessarily have the resources to vote for them, but who are the spine and nervous system of our city?
These hubs have done more for public health in the communities they serve than I have ever seen in almost 30 years of living and teaching in this city.
I spend a decent amount of time socializing with folks who live north of California Street, and have just finished four years as a parent volunteer trying to encourage space for even a nod toward equity and inclusion at one of their private high schools.
These folks wield a lot of power, have so much money, and have literally the worldliness and experience of a suburbanite from Lafayette. But boy, they really think they know it all. Hence, everything that is currently happening in this city.
Mission Local, any chance for an update with a happy ending? Please?
I wouldn’t hold my breath, the way Breed has been moving recently is extremely right-wing. Dorsey’s appointment, boycotting Pride to side with SFPD, her laser-focus on getting more cops on the streets, and a budget that does away with important public health infrastructure. It’s all bad.
Only in SF would anyone consider anything that the mayor has done as being remotely “right wing”. Get some perspective! It’s not like we’re living in Texas, or Russia for that matter.
Not living in Texas? Did you see how Breed’s team gerrymandered the supervisorial districts with intent to boost the moderate/conservative Democrats’ prospects? Pure Texas Republican.
Not Russia? It looks like tech oligarchs are Breed’s primary base of support.
The cynicism of the Mayor and DPH is not beyond belief. Community hubs came into existence because the City was doing nothing to stem the virus other than shutting businesses down and dumping the burden on “essential workers”. This is sick, short-sighted and totally in line with everything we’ve seen from the brain dead corruption cartel laughingly referred to as city “government” for the past 40 years. Appalling.