DISSOLUTION OF COUNTY ANTI-POVERTY PROGRAM COULD MEAN GREATER FOCUS LOCALLY
By Steven Tavares
Despite the monetary costs of shutting down the Associated Community Action Program (ACAP) in Alameda County, some of the human costs are beginning to surface.
In Fremont, families struggling to survive, but with dreams of owning their own home one day could be left behind by the sudden loss of funding from the long-time anti-poverty program that up until this year procured and distributed over $3.5 million across the county.
Vital programs at the Fremont Family Resource Center will likely not survive ACAP’s impending dissolution in the next few months. The organization helped 50 families with financial counseling in addition to matching funds for savings to those interested in home ownership or starting small businesses. The city says those participating in the program have not been able to access their accounts since ACAP began laying off employees last month after payroll was not met for two months. Funding from ACAP also provided help for victims of violent crime. That program is also in jeopardy.
In many instances across the county, ACAP provided unique help and counseling for a wide range of clients, many of whom are down-and-out in addition to making the extremely difficult transition from incarceration to searching for employment and housing. During a meeting of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors last month, a former employee of ACAP lamented that without some of its programs, many client will turn to committing crimes to make ends meet.
The social costs are great to the 12 cities that encompass ACAP (12 East Bay cities, excluding Oakland and Berkeley, and a representative from the county Board of Supervisors). According to the Joint Powers Agreement among the cities, each is liable for an equal share of the program. In March, each city agreed to front ACAP $25,000 each to cover payroll and some of its obligations. Some cities, such as Albany and Emeryville balked , but eventually agreed, if not on the theory, it would be less costly to split legal costs among the 13, rather than potentially going it alone.
Part of the reluctance stemmed from the fact most ACAP’s endeavors were centered in San Leandro, Hayward and Fremont. Numerous organizations in San Leandro stands to be left in the lurch by the closing of ACAP, most notably, the Davis Street Family Resource Center.
One end around to the end of ACAP may entail regionalizing the services the program sought to fund around the county. Councilmembers in Fremont expressed interest this week in forming an organization with its Tri-City neighbors--Union City and Newark--to perform some of the same services backed by ACAP. Councilmembers Anu Natarajan and Bill Harrison both backed such an idea. Fred Diaz, Fremont’s city manager, said he also already spoken with officials in both cities, but believes any program must not include dollars from the general fund or further extend existing staff.
An audit by the county over ACAP's financial dealings has yet to be released despite being due over two weeks ago. The Alameda County District Attorney's Office has also not disclosed any criminal findings against the former ACAP executive director, who was fired in February after the governing board was first notified of the program's inability to pay outside vendors or meet payroll.