On Monday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a final budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020-21. The budget addresses a nearly $1 billion projected shortfall by eliminating over 3,200 positions which would result in an estimated 655 layoffs. The lion’s share of these projected layoffs, approximately 400, are in the Sheriff’s Department.
Q: Why are cuts to the Sheriff’s Department so large? Why are most of the projected layoffs in the LASD?
A: Some have speculated that deep cuts to the Sheriff Department are influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement’s call to defund law enforcement departments or that it is the result of political squabbles between Sheriff Alex Villanueva and the Board of Supervisors. This is not the case. LASD budget cuts are deeper than other county departments, because the Sheriff’s Department relies more heavily on the revenue sources that have experienced the sharpest declines during the COVID-19 emergency – namely, sales tax and state realignment funds. Other public safety departments that rely heavily on these funding sources – such as Probation, the District Attorney and the Public Defender – are also slated for deep cuts and layoffs.
Q: What is our plan to stop the layoffs?
A: CEO Sachi Hamai has said that the budget represents a “moment in time, not the finish line.” It is important to remember that no layoffs will take effect before October 1. We have time to stop the layoffs! And we have a three-part plan to do just that:
1 – Pass the HEROES Act
Neither the Sheriff, nor the Board of Supervisors, are to blame for LA County’s budget crisis. Of course, it was brought on by the COVID-19 emergency, which has devastated our local economy. But it is also the result of a failure by the federal government to provide fiscal relief to states and local governments. They have spent trillions of dollars to bail out corporations and businesses but have so far failed to provide any significant relief to Los Angeles County. At LA County, we are the frontline responders – public safety, healthcare, social services workers and more – but the federal government has left us out of the stimulus acts. This must change!
The House of Representatives has already passed the HEROES Act, which would provide $1 trillion of relief to state and local governments, and would wipe out all of the layoffs in LA County’s budget. Unfortunately, so far, the Republican-controlled US Senate has failed to act and is not scheduled to take up the issue until they return from recess on July 20. In the meantime, we will turn up the heat! (See below for what you can do to help.)
2 – Shared Sacrifice
At the beginning of June, SEIU 721’s Bargaining Policy Committee (BPC) reached an agreement with the LA County to temporarily suspend the county’s matching contributions to the Horizons deferred compensation plan. This one temporary contract change could save the county enough money to avert most, if not all, of the layoffs. However, the agreement was contingent on ALL county unions agreeing to share in the sacrifice. So far, the other county unions, including ALADS (Sheriff’s Deputies) and PPOA (Lieutenants and Captains) have not reached agreement. But that can change in the coming weeks. If and when it does, we can stop the layoffs even if Congress fails to act!
3 – Chop from the Top!
Now is not the time to be fighting over where to cut in the LA County budget. We cannot afford to take the pressure off Congress. With one single vote, they could make it unnecessary to cut anywhere at all! There’s nothing our enemies in Congress would like better than to sit back and watch LA County fighting over cuts. We won’t let them off the hook!
But if Congress fails to act by mid-August, and no relief is forthcoming, we shift our focus to the Board of Supervisors. They must pass a supplemental budget in September that “chops from the top” or “cuts the fat, not the lean.” SEIU Local 721 is preparing an alternative LA County budget plan that identifies cost savings – without layoffs or other adverse impacts on front line workers.
Q: What can I do to help?
A: The best thing we can do right now is to turn up the heat on our US Senators to pass the HEROES Act. In the coming weeks, we will participate in a national campaign to bombard their offices with phone calls, post cards, emails, video clips, social media posts, text messages – whatever it takes! Join us by texting VOICES to 31996. We’ve got big plans in the works and you won’t want to miss out.
We’re in this together – and, together, we win!