Happy New Year! Fiscal New Year, that is. As of July 1, the County of Sonoma rolls into a new fiscal year, and will be implementing the NEW County budget approved by the Board of Supervisors in June.
What does this mean to you, in West County?
I’m proud to say that the Board of Supervisors made a number of new, critical investments in social and physical infrastructure this year. The projects supported by this funding will make us more resilient in the face of drought, floods, and wildfires— and will inch us towards becoming a more equitable, just, fair society.
These new investments include:
● $2M for community infrastructure projects in West County, to be developed and prioritized in conversation with the community.
● $1M for paid disaster leave for hourly wage workers, to be activated in case of a disaster.
● $2M to fund a multi-year flexible “community disaster immediate needs” program, which would provide support to residents in need (in partnership with local non-profits) in the case of a disaster.
● $5M Water Fund to address flooding, drought resilience, and possible wastewater solutions. This includes $75,000 to apply for state funds to support septic owners coming into compliance with the Russian River TMDL.
● $236,000 to avoid shutting down the Guerneville Vets building homeless shelter, which would otherwise have shuttered its doors at the end of June, kicking 25 unsheltered folks out onto the streets.
● $375,000 to help Sonoma County becomes a “pro-housing County,” a designation that would open up funding opportunities to build more affordable housing.
● $1.2M for a food needs assessment and food distribution.
● $1.5M to support groundwater sustainability planning efforts.
● $500,000 to keep our Visitor’s Centers open.
● $200,000 for the Secure Families Fund to support undocumented community members.
● $250,000 for Redwood Empire Food Bank.
This is on top of some exciting investments coming about through our American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Through an initial Fifth District transient occupancy tax grant, FREE downtown WiFi has already made it to Guerneville. Thanks to the addition of $390,000 of ARPA funds, we will be seeing free, disaster-resilient WiFi coming to downtown Forestville, Bodega, Bodega Bay, Rio Nido, Cazadero, and Jenner. And we won’t stop there! We are currently working with the amazing Bryan Hughes to support an application for CASF funding to expand free WiFi to additional communities.
In addition to free WiFi, ARPA funds will be reducing hunger in our communities while strengthening local food production. A dream team of Forestville’s own Food For Thought and Sebastopol-based Ceres Community Project received $2.25M to provide food for folks with critical medical conditions. This is in addition to $1.482M going to Farm to Pantry and FEED Sonoma that will buy farm-fresh produce from local farmers to support in-need families. Additionally, more than $3M will be going to provide Guaranteed Basic Income for pregnant moms and parenting families.
We believe that this money and investments into these programs, in partnership with our local non-profits, will make our community a more equitable, healthy, resilient place!