COVID-19

As we are currently living outside of our normal routines, I wanted to step out of the usual norm for my newsletter and begin with a personal note. The circumstances that have been created by the COVID-19, or Coronavirus, pose a daunting challenge for all of us. To some, it may seem like a problem that is too big to tackle, while others have concerns that we have taken it out of proportion. Regardless of what anyone may think, we get back to our regular lives by working together. Stopping the spread of the virus does more than just get us back to work, school, or the gym; it does save lives. So while we wait out the storm, try to remember all that is at stake. Take this opportunity to slow down a little, enjoy the little things. Read a book, binge that t.v. show, call an old friend or spend some time outside.

The employees of the county and I are still here working for you. My staff is observing the stay at home order by working from their homes, but they continue to take dozens of calls and emails every day to assist me in helping the residents of district 4. Similarly, while county departments have altered how they can provide some services, they are still up and running. If there is anything you think the county can do to help you, I encourage you to reach out. If you are looking for updates about COVID-19 in Sacramento County, or information about essential activities, be sure to visit the county’s website. Keep your heads high, practice social distancing, wash your hands, and when this is all over, I know, we will come out stronger. Like we always do.

Sacramento County Eviction Ordinance 

Last week, I voted against an emergency ordinance at the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors which would have prohibited property owners from evicting renters impacted by Coronavirus who do not pay their rent, and was able to defeat the ordinance. Since I know that the press is going to try to take my words out of context, I want to take this opportunity to explain in full the reasons I voted against this.

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1. Tenants that are being evicted now are not victims of Coronavirus. Tenants being evicted now have been delinquent in rent for months. Landlords do not file for eviction without forwarding multiple late notices, and because of this, the timeline for an eviction takes multiple months. People who lost their jobs who are unable to pay rent won’t actually face eviction until May at the earliest.

2. This is all done in the backdrop of the Feds suspending mortgage payments to landlords affected by coronavirus, but the federal protections only allow for loan payments to be deferred, not skipped. Here is what is going to happen in reality: When renters who have lost out on work get back to getting paid, most are not going to be able to pay the back-rent within 120 days. They still have bills to pay, food to buy, a car payment to make, etc. Even paying back one month would be difficult, can you imagine if this stretches on for several months? Eventually when they are evicted after the 120 days, the homeowner now has 4 months of back mortgage and interest payments that they either pay or add to their loan.

3. The Feds also didn’t suspend mortgage payments to all landlords, just those who have loans that are guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Those two entities only hold about 42% of single-family mortgages, and about 48% of multi-family mortgages.This means that our ordinance would force a huge number of homeowners (potentially over half) into allowing tenants to defer rent (which may or may not get paid back) without the corresponding ability to defer their mortgage. This could directly drive these homes into foreclosure.

4. The real solution is a stimulus package at the federal or state level. By all indications, a package is in the final stages of negotiation and we could have a national deal as soon as today. Both sides of the negotiating table want to directly give money to citizens to pay for things like rent. This type of stimulus will actually help solve our eviction problem, without unintended consequences and forcing homeowners to foot the bill.

The Board is going to come back tomorrow to discuss a non-emergency ordinance which if passed, would go into place in May. This gives congress time to take action to give protections to these renters who need help.

Trial, Error, and Takeaways

In March 2018 I wrote an article in this newsletter outlining why I thought Sacramento County was in need of a work program for people who are homeless. In March 2019 I put theory into reality and officially rolled out a one-year trial program that would not only employ people who are homeless but also work to beautify Sacramento County at the same time.  I promised you that after the trial was completed, I would report back on how effective the program was.

I am sad to report that the program ended largely in failure – but we did learn some important lessons.  I want to take this opportunity to explain to you why it failed, and what we learned.  But before that, I want to give you a refresher on exactly how the program functioned.

40 homeless people were planned to be identified who were both willing to work and be clean from drugs and alcohol.  Shelter would be secured for them, and they would clean the American River Parkway for minimum wage pay in the morning, and go through a job training program in the construction industry in the afternoon. After leaving the program they would then get help in finding employment by getting introduced to employers, being placed in internships, and receiving certificates that enable them to earn more than minimum wage.  

Unfortunately, we were only able to get 8 people out of a goal of 40 enrolled in the program, with even less graduated.  By far the biggest reason for this failure was because the people in our program could not stay off drugs.  Not only could they not stay clean, but we couldn’t even find people who wanted to try getting clean.  And we aren’t talking just about drugs like marijuana, we are talking about extremely dangerous drugs like methamphetamine and crack cocaine.  There were other problems with the program as well, such as showing up to work on time and a hesitance to work specifically in the construction industry.  But those problems paled in comparison to the drug abuse. 

The last official homeless count done less than a year ago showed that Sacramento County has over 5,500 homeless people living within our borders. And out of those 5,500, we could only find 8 who were willing to be drug-free. This is a startling statistic and one that has caused me to learn two important lessons from this endeavor.

The first lesson I learned is that we must solve the underlying problems that homeless people have before we can work on job training.  It is a wasted effort and a drain on the taxpayers for no benefit. We have to solve their drug and alcohol dependence before we can expect them to responsibly hold down a job.

The other lesson I learned is that the data we receive from the federally mandated point-in-time homeless survey cannot be trusted.  In the most recent iteration of that survey from 2019, the data told us that only 9% of homeless people claim alcohol or drugs prevents them from keeping a job or maintaining stable housing.  An article in one Sacramento paper even claimed this data proves it is a “Myth” that homeless people all use drugs.  At the time I severely questioned this data, but now I know for certain that it is faulty.

Even though this program itself was not successful, I am still glad that we did it and think there is great value to learning the lessons that we have.  I also take great personal issue with new government programs that are started and turn out to be ineffective, yet get funded for eternity – so I am happy that we have quickly changed directions once we found out things weren’t working.  

I still believe that finding jobs for people who are homeless is an important piece to this overall problem that we are not looking close enough at.  But I now realize with much greater clarity that there are bigger problems we have to get a handle on first.

Thank you for reading – and as always, if you want to contact me call me at 916-874-5491, or reply to this e-mail.

For a complete list of all my past newsletters, which each contain a commentary like this one, click here.

Supplies Needed

As many of you know, there is a dire need among health care professionals right now for certain supplies.

The county is operating a donation location:

Mondays through Fridays from 9am-Noon at
9680 Conservation Road

Any of the following items unopened are being accepted:

• N95 mask of any type
• Surgical or procedural masks
• Non-latex medical gloves
• Hand sanitizers
• Disinfectant sprays

If you have the ability to donate, please make sure to stop by.

COVID-19 Homelessness Response Team

Many people have asked about what the County is doing to control the spread of COVID-19 among the homeless population. The Sacramento Homeless COVID-19 Response Team has expedited efforts to bring much needed services including increased shelter beds and sanitation supplies, and to find ways to keep homeless shelters open and safe for clients and workers. 

We are also creating operational new capacity for shelters that can serve vulerable and unhoused clients.

We are working in partnership with the City of Sacramento, Sacramento Steps Forward, and the Sacramento Housing & Redevelopment agency.  

I am grateful for the joint effort that has gone into controlling the spread to this extremely vulnerable population. For more information, you can email.

Important Information for Sacramento County Business Owners

The County’s Economic Development webpage has been updated with specific information and resources for businesses impacted by COVID-19, available here. We will be continually updating it as new resources, grants, loans and news is made available.

This information has been sent out to our business email list, local Chambers, PBIDS and other community partners. We have also been coordinating with the Public Information Office on sending out updates with this information as well as local businesses hiring announcements through our social media channels. While some of our team is working remotely, our office downtown is still staffed and providing support to businesses calling in for assistance.

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