Community Stands Up For Measure P!
In anticipation of Berkeley’s June 30, 2020 budget meeting, the League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany, and Emeryville sent a letter urging the mayor and city council not to divert Measure P transfer tax proceeds away from homeless services to cover the historic budget deficit.
While a memo from the Berkeley city manager included Measure P’s $5.12 million as part of the City’s $40 million shortfall, Katharine Gale, the chair of the Homeless Services Panel of Experts, told the council that the transfer taxes have already been collected.
“Allocating Measure P funds to housing and services does not actually increase the shortfall because it is fully paid for by funds generated exactly for that purpose and supported by the voters,” she said.
Gayle also said she knew the city was facing hard choices, but that the city needed to stand by its commitment to provide housing to individuals and families – the only solution to homelessness, and a matter of life or death during Covid-19.
“I hope the Council will stand behind its words to the voters to address and end homelessness. I believe that’s what the mayor and the budget committee has proposed and I thank them and thank all of you,” she said.
Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin took a moment to reassure Gayle and the community that Measure P funds would only be used as intended.
“First of all, I want to thank you for your service,” Arreguin said. “And I want to note that both the city manager’s budget recommendation and the budget and finance committee’s recommendations are proposing that we spend all of the Measure P revenues on homeless services.”
Approximately $705,000 of Measure P funds will not be used for the expansion of the STAIR program that includes a congregate living space, and a $100,000 will not be spent on the Safe RV Parking Program. However, the funds have now been deemed for “COVID-19 Homelessness Solutions” in the city budget which was approved by the council in an 8-1 vote. There were eight votes in favor and one abstention by Council Member Davila.
Later that week, the panel of experts met to discuss the future of Measure P.
The commission supported the city’s use of funds, as long as those committed continue to be maintained for homelessness needs.
The commission said that the council hadn’t landed on how to use all of the funds, and that it anticipated having to go back and amend their initial proposal to account for the recently allocated funding. They said that the funds will likely be used primarily to support vulnerable populations, those at higher risk of COVID because of health conditions or age.
The panel of experts formed a subcommittee to address the commission function and purpose going forward. They are planning to revisit their initial plans with the hope of amending them to account for the Covid-19 response. Additionally, the commission is researching options for the acquisition of permanent housing using other lines of funding, including the Emergency Solutions Grant from the federal government.
Ultimately, the commission is taking this as an opportunity to “get people housed” by transitioning residents who were once on the streets or in shelters to more permanent housing.
The League strongly supported Measure P in the 2018 election and remains dedicated to improving access to affordable housing and services for the unhoused population.
You can view the complete city council meeting here. Discussion about the Budget (Item 40) begins at 2:43:42.
-Simelia Rogers and the League’s Homelessness & Affordable Housing Team contributed to this story
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