Good morning, Chairman Escobar and Supervisors.
My name is Crystal Quezada, Imperial Valley Regional Director for the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties and a resident of Imperial.
Like you, we believe government must be transparent, community-centered, fair and accountable to the people.
- These are our shared values and what make us a democratic society.
The Board of Supervisors must hold itself and all employees accountable to these values for all people in Imperial County.
Between the pandemic and housing, gas and food prices our community has suffered tremendously over the past three years.
The federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was passed last year to provide…
- $35.2 million designated to assist our community;
- To date, more than $20 million, is unspent;
- And County staff will not provide specific details on where and how expended APRA funds were used. I, myself, have called to request where the county stands on ARPA expenditures only to be told to watch today’s board meeting for an update. This is unacceptable.
As the Board of Supervisors identified during its April 26 meeting, the ARPA funds program lacks the budget transparency required for the board to ensure its integrity and to guard against fraud, waste and abuse.
If the board of supervisors is in the dark, we know the public is not sufficiently informed about ARPA budget allocations, and our most impacted communities are not being heard on government decision-making intended to benefit them.
- Uninformed, overlooked and under-served by our government.
- These are not our values.
- Our Imperial Valley communities deserve better.
Public engagement and transparency are crucial to ensuring that the ARPA funds are spent in ways that meet community priorities and address the greatest harms of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Equity must be the highest motivation and priority in the allocation and distribution of these funds.
The public must be better informed about ARPA budget expenditures.
- Our most impacted community members, our neighbors and families hardest hit by the pandemic, must be listened to and engaged to help inform the County’s ARPA spending plan.
We urge the following information be included in county finance reports moving forward:
- Details of how $35.2 million ARPA funds are allocated and spent. Broken down by department, including strategies and outcomes, timing, itemized expenditure reports, planning meetings and public workshops;
- The County’s plan to assess the people’s needs related to the four priorities stipulated by the U.S. Department of the Treasury outlined in the memo provided to the board on July 28; and
- Steps the County has taken to solicit meaningful input from organizations on the front lines of this pandemic, community members most impacted by COVID-19 and representatives of historically disadvantaged groups.
Further, we recommend the county host regular meetings in English and Spanish, at accessible times, to provide updates on the ARPA funds and solicit public input. The County should share all this information on its website.
Chairman and Supervisors, the ACLU, Imperial Valley Equity & Justice Coalition and other partners, are ready to work together to achieve meaningful, long-term commitments in Imperial County’s ARPA plan that improve the quality of life for all county residents and prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable people in the Valley.