Community Living Fund Raided to Balance Mayor Newsom’s Budget
by Patrick Monette-Shaw

It has been widely reported that Mayor Newsom’s FY ’09–’10 proposed budget raids $2.3 million out of the City’s public campaign financing program, a program required under City law.

Sadly, completely unreported by the news media is that Newsom is also raiding $1 million from a fund established to help elderly and disabled San Franciscans, even though a response to a public records request indicated there were 129 people on a waiting list for those funds.  This $1 million raid is in addition to an almost $1 million cut the Department of Public Health proposed to its Health at Home program serving, among others, seniors and disabled people.

Gavin Newsom’s web site for his campaign to become governor states:

“When it comes to housing, health care and so much more — it’s clear we are not living up to our obligation to care for our parents and grandparents.”
                                                                                  — Gavin Newsom

This page on his web site is sheer spin control, touting his purported successes helping senior citizens despite the fact that his record as mayor proves otherwise.

If gubernatorial candidate Newsom doesn’t believe we’re meeting obligations to help the elderly, why is he raiding funds for the elderly to balance his mayoral FY ’09–’10 City budget? If he’s elected governor, will he feel emboldened to do the same thing with the State’s budget?

Catherine Dodd, Newsom’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Health and Human Services, announced on Thursday, June 11 during a meeting of the Mayor’s Long-Term Care Coordinating Council that Newsom has taken $1 million from a currently unspent $5 million balance in the City’s Community Living Fund (CLF) in order to balance his FY ’09–’10 budget. Dodd didn’t elaborate on whether Newsom has any intention of ever repaying the $1 million he’s raiding from the CLF.

This is the same Newsom who prevented the full 1,200-bed rebuild at Laguna Honda Hospital, by cutting the now $593 million replacement facility to only 780 beds — and the same Newsom who prematurely cut Laguna Honda to only 780 beds prior to opening the new facility in order to help balance his FY ’08–’09 City budget.  This is also the same Newsom who permitted a mid-year Department of Public Health budget cut that closed the Adult Day Health Care (ADHC) program at Laguna Honda Hospital serving seniors and people with Alzheimer’s in the spring of 2009.

For her part, Dodd also reported to the LTCCC on June 11 that Newsom was only cutting the Department of Public Health’s budget by $34 million; she may not have read page 55 in the Mayor's 430-page proposed budget submission that he is reducing the Department of Public Health’s budget by $128.4 million (and the Human Services Agency with another $15.9 million cut, on page 54).

More importantly, why is candidate Newsom raiding a fund created by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors in 2006 to assist the elderly, when a response on December 16, 2008 to a public records request reported there were 129 people on the CLF waiting list?

The CLF was created in 2006 to assist elderly and disabled residents of Laguna Honda Hospital, or people “at risk” of admission to Laguna Honda, to live independently in the community. Notably, the ordinance creating the CLF was authored by San Francisco’s Supervisors Michela Alioto-Pier, Sophie Maxwell, Tom Ammiano, Bevan Dufty, and Fiona Ma, not by Newsom, despite the fact that Newsom appears to be belatedly taking credit for having created the fund (his web site for governor indicates he has “twice helped secure” CLF funding, when in fact it is a set-aside required by the Board’s Ordinance number 0198-06 that does not require any involvement by the mayor to fund). He’s again claiming as his own record initiatives other legislators, including Ammiano, have introduced on their own.

The program is administered by San Francisco’s Department of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS) through the Institute on Aging and other organizations.

According to the Institute on Aging’s web site, “the CLF program funds home and community-based services, or a combination of goods and services, which help individuals who are currently at risk of being institutionalized. The program uses a two-pronged approach: (1) intensive case management; and (2) purchase of services.” The CLF program makes money available to vulnerable elderly and disabled San Franciscans for services and resources not funded by any other program.

The CLF’s top priority is to assist residents of Laguna Honda Hospital and patients at San Francisco General Hospital who are able and willing to be discharged to community living. The program also assists individuals on the Laguna Honda waiting list — people at SFGH, other hospitals, and at home — and individuals at “imminent risk” for nursing home or institutional placement.

Types of services supported by the CLF includes, but is not limited to, additional in-home support service hours, adult day health care, durable medical equipment and other assistive devices, emergency food, home delivered meals, home repairs and adaptive modifications, “patch” funding for transitional housing, respite care, Medi-Cal “share-of-cost” assistance, short term rent subsidies, and transportation to medical and other appointments.

The CLF was established as a Category 4 special fund, “meaning that funds may be appropriated, interest shall be accumulated, and that any fund balance shall carry forward year to year.” The CLF was passed unanimously by the Board of Supervisors on July 18, 2006, requiring that DAAS report every six months to the Board of Supervisors about the level of services provided from, and costs incurred by, the fund. It is not known whether DAAS has appeared before, or reported to, the Board of Supervisors six times (i.e., every six months) since first receiving CLF funding in FY ’06–’07.

It is thought the CLF has received $3 million in each of the past three fiscal years, totaling $9 million. The funds are permitted to be carried forward annually. To reach a $5 million account balance, the fund appears not to have spent 56% of the $9 million in funding it has received since 2006, not including interest the account has earned. Looking at it a different way, the $5 million unspent balance in the CLF account represents 83% of a two-year allocation of $6 million.

The Board of Supervisors needs to enact legislation that specifically:

  1. Restores, by preventing, the Mayor’s $1 million raid from the CLF in FY ’09–’10.
  2. Expedites getting people off of the CLF waiting list.
  3. Considers whether the diverted $1 million from the CLF should be appropriated to restore cuts to the Health at Home program, if DAAS is unable to spend down its $5 million CLF balance.
  4. Prevents any Mayor (or the Board, itself) to raid Category 4 special fund accounts in order to balance the City budget in any future fiscal year.
  5. Permits DAAS and other City departments to roll over Category 4 special funds for only six months into a succeeding fiscal year, or forfeit any unspent balance. Requiring that funds be encumbered during the fiscal year an appropriation was made, and then fully spent within six months into a subsequent fiscal year, is a common practice with entitlement programs. Category 4 accounts were never intended to be used to amass huge slush-fund account balances using unspent funds.

If San Franciscans truly care about meeting our obligations to care for elderly and disabled people, we can’t permit City officials to raid funds set aside for that purpose. And we can’t have 129 (or more, by now) people sitting on waiting lists while accounts grow to massive unspent balances. City officials must either spend these funds in the year intended and needed, or they must stop the pretense that they want to meet societal obligations to help the elderly and disabled.

Patrick Monette-Shaw



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