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County workers address supes about lack of funding for public assistance programs

 

Contra Costa County employees spoke Tuesday at the Board of Supervisors meeting to address what they say is a lack of resources to provide quality care to the youth, elderly and other communities in need, pleading for fair bargaining.

County employees, including social and eligibility workers represented by Service Employees International Union Local 1021, said the county has failed to spend money allocated for public assistance programs.

Kim Carter-Martinez, Assistant Director of SEIU 1021, said "Recently, we found out that from 2014 to 2016 Contra Costa County left $21 million in federal and state allocations on the table that could have been used to expand services."

The employees criticized the supervisors' performance, saying vacancy rates in county departments reach up to 40% in some "critical areas", and that the county has one of the lowest salary and benefit packages in all of the Bay Area, leaving many employees to apply for the same services that they offer to clients.

"When delays occur in the delivery of public programs, it has devastating consequences. It means someone goes hungry or goes without the health assistance they need. It means someone who's trying to get the necessary training to get a job misses a life-changing chance," county social services program assistant Champagne Brown said.

Several services such as mental health and support for children and the elderly have dwindled as a result of the vacancy rates, according to county workers.

Carter-Martinez said SEIU 1021 members identified caseload growth and understaffing as a key reason why the county did not meet state mandates for social service programs.

County eligibility worker Dan Jameyson questioned why the county was walking away from $21 million in allocations that were intended to deliver these much needed services to Contra Costa County.

Jameyson said to the Board, "We are giving concrete proposals to try and solve these problems and we would greatly appreciate if you would start engaging with us."

County employees said multiple violent crimes have been reported on county property, but current safety procedures for the county were created in 1976 and do not reflect modern-day realities.

Carter-Martinez said in the past three months she had heard of a shooting in a parking lot, a sexual assault in the same parking lot and an attempted car-jacking.

"It would be great if we didn't have to worry about our safety, and the safety of our clients while at work," Carter-Martinez said.

A spokeswoman for the workers said the supervisors did not immediately address the issues brought forth by county workers, but was hopeful they would see improvement.

-- Bay City News Service

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