Orange County Spends $32 Million of CARES Act Funds on Homeless

December 17, 2020 Updated: December 20, 2020

As one would expect with federal funding aimed at helping the county through the pandemic, much of the CARES Act funding in Orange County, California, was spent on health care costs. But aid to businesses was the biggest expense, and helping the homeless was also in the top three, according to a breakdown provided to The Epoch Times by the Orange County Auditor-Controller’s office.

Interest in how the money is being spent has increased as the Dec. 30 deadline to spend the funds approaches.

The auditor-controller’s office is working on putting together more detailed information about the spending, spokesperson Danielle Ortiz said. Molly Nichelson, a county public information officer, told The Epoch Times that full accounting of how the funds have been spent won’t be available until Jan. 15.

According to the preliminary breakdown sent by Ortiz, Orange County spent $75 million on small businesses out of its total $554 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding.

The next highest expense was health care agency payroll, at about $57 million, followed by spending on the homeless population of about $32 million.

The last point-in-time count of homeless people in the county, pre-pandemic, showed about 6,900 homeless, though it remains unclear how much that population has grown amid pandemic-related economic hardships. The county’s total population is about 3.2 million.

Share Our Selves (SOS) Director of Social Services Michael McGlinn told The Epoch Times in September that his food pantries used to get 170 visitors per day, and it’s now risen to almost 300 per day. David Gillanders, executive director of Pathways of Hope, said at a roundtable in November that his organization’s food distribution program has gone up from 30 per day to 150 per day during the pandemic.

The county also spent $5.5 million in CARES money on Project Roomkey, which rented hotel rooms for at-risk homeless people.

The breakdown of spending shows about $30 million going to hospitals, many of which have been strained, impacting the whole county’s status for lockdown mandates.

State-mandated stay-at-home orders kick in when intensive care unit (ICU) capacity drops below 15 percent. Reports of people in critical need unable to get help due to crowded hospitals have circulated throughout Southern California.

Testing for COVID-19 cost about $28 million of the federal funds. Mental health programs received almost the same amount.

Sums ranging from about $10 million to $20 million were dedicated to telework capabilities, medical supplies, alternate care sites, restaurant heating and lighting, child care providers, and emergency protective measures.

Contact tracing cost about $9 million. COVID research got about $8 million. Communication and translation cost about $7 million, as did personal protective equipment. County employee sick and family leave cost about $6 million.