Tuolumne County

Supervisors to consider food bank donation, Jefferson

By Alex MacLean, The Union Democrat

Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors, 9 a.m. Tuesday, County Administration Center, fourth floor, 2 S. Green St., Sonora.

A food bank in Tuolumne County could receive up to $100,000 related to a loan funded by a past Community Development Block Grant, a federal program that was put on the chopping block this week by President Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors will consider taking actions that would direct the money to the food bank operated by the Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency. The same meeting is also scheduled to include a presentation from State of Jefferson supporters.

Terry Cox, of Cox Consulting in Sonora, said Tuesday’s actions are related to repayments on housing loans that were funded by a previous CDBG grant that the county received about 15 years ago.

The program, which provides funding for projects and services that benefit low-income residents, allows the county to use the loan repayments for other eligible projects.

“It recycles within the community,” Cox said.

County officials say the program has brought in more than $50 million in the past 30-plus years for various projects and services.

In defending the proposal to eliminate the program, which would shave $3 billion off the next fiscal year’s federal budget, the Trump administration claimed the program hasn’t been well-targeted to the poorest populations nor produced the desired results.

However, Cox said the program is highly regulated to ensure the money is spent appropriately, which is one of the reasons for the extra step to get approval from the board.

County officials and other agencies that have received money through the program have said the loss of the funding would have significant impacts on services that benefit low-income residents, the homeless, homebound seniors, and the community at large.

If the U.S. Congress were to approve Trump’s budget blueprint as proposed, which appears unlikely, Cox said she’s unsure what would happen to other repayments on CDBG loans that the county is still due to receive.

“If they cut the program altogether, we’re in uncharted territory completely,” Cox said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board is also scheduled to hear from State of Jefferson supporters who want to clarify their position regarding the county’s requested follow-up to a meeting held at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds on March 7.

The State of Jefferson is a movement involving 20-plus Northern California counties seeking to break away from California and form their own 51st state.

Hundreds of people on both sides of the debate attended the March 7 meeting where Jefferson supporters and opponents presented their arguments to the board.

At the end of the meeting, the board directed county staff to prepare an analysis of the potential impact on the county’s finances should it join Jefferson and leave the state with the sixth-largest economy in the world.

The plan was to present an analysis to the board at a meeting in April.

David Titchenal, a spokesman for county’s State of Jefferson committee, said it was never the supporters’ intention to have the county spend money or dedicate staff time on independently investigating the issue.

“Right now, we don’t feel that Jefferson needs to put the county through those types of costs, and I think they are relatively happy not to do it in that short of a timeframe,” Titchenal said, adding that the county has used up almost all discretionary funds battling tree mortality and addressing road damage from recent storms.

Titchenal referred to District 2 Supervisor Randy Hanvelt’s comments at the meeting that the movement seems to be gaining momentum at a grassroots level without official support from many local governments.

Five boards of supervisors in the counties that would be within the proposed state’s borders have expressed formal support, while the rest have rejected the proposal, taken no position, or have yet to consider the issue.

The movement’s ultimate goal is to restructure the state Legislature to provide more representation for the rural Northern California counties, who feel their voice has been diluted due to a 120-member cap on the number of legislators that was enacted when the state’s population was fewer than 1 million people.

They are planning to file a lawsuit in federal court seeking to force the state of California to address the disparity in representation, or allow them to form their own state.

16757076
The Union Democrat
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