Budget cuts would take toll on the needy

A “devastating” new round of San Mateo County cuts totaling $23.2 million would strip Medi-Cal coverage from thousands of kids, seize job services from hundreds of residents and hamstring criminal-justice programs.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s May revision to his state budget would cost the county an extra $23.2 million in cuts in addition to $4 million in planned budget reductions, said County Manager John Maltbie, who described the cuts as devastating to thecounty in an updated budget released Tuesday.

If the cuts are made as anticipated by the county, the departments affected would include criminal justice, health and human services, and child-support services.

“Those people will be uninsured,” Deputy County Manager Mary McMillan said. “They’ll still need health care. They’ll come to counties, who must provide them health care.”

About 4,500 kids would lose Medi-Cal coverage, a state program that provides medical coverage for the uninsured, according to the report, and 650 residents would lose eligibility for the job training and assistance program called CalWORKs under the proposed budget. Some of the residents who lose those services may be able to apply for other similar county programs that would lengthen clinic wait times and significantly increase county costs, Maltbie said.

“If they lose benefits and they have no other means of support it really does have a significant impact on children,” said Elsa Dawson, economic self-sufficiency director for the Human Services Agency.

Additionally, 263 blind, aged and disabled residents would lose coverage under a program that provides financial support for legal immigrants and 3,000 people would receive county financial support would not be offered cost-of-living financial increases.

Criminal-justice programs would lose $7.2 million under the revise, including the elimination of a $5 million crime-prevention program that provides aid to youths and their families involved in the cycle of criminality. There would also be $1 million taken from a program that provides services to mentally ill offenders.

The San Mateo Medical Center is also expected to cut $7 million by eliminating 19 positions and keeping 70 more vacant. The center currently spends $244.2 million and has 1,350 employee positions.

Additionally, the county’s deficit by 2013 is now estimated to reach $92.1 million, up from the $86 million originally thought, county Budget Director Jim Saco said. A slumping housing market, including a 15.9 percent drop in county home sales, and a decrease in money raised from public-safety sales tax have inflated the anticipated deficit, officials said.

The county adopted a five-year plan in December that included capping spending and using reserve funds, which are still above $200 million, to curb the deficit.

The county’s Board of Supervisors will hold three public hearings on the budget on June 23, June 24 and June 25 before adopting the budget in time for its start date, July 1.

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

Tighten up

San Mateo County anticipates the following cuts from the governor’s May budget revision.

$23.2 million: Total

$1.6 million: Child welfare

$3.4 million: Job support services

$2 million: Financial support for legal immigrants

$9 million: County administration of state welfare programs

$7.2 million: Criminal justice programs

Source: San Mateo County

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