For months, Santa Ana has provided residents with free Coronavirus testing and related health programs that haven’t come on the taxpayer’s dime.
But funding for such programs, which came from federal Coronavirus relief money, has now been exhausted.
Santa Ana City Council members at a special meeting today could vote to set aside $250,000 in taxpayer dollars toward more testing and an eventual vaccine distribution.
The staff report for today’s meeting doesn’t say which contractors the city could be looking at to provide those services.
City spokesman Paul Eakins said that decision would fall under City Manager Kristine Ridge — should the council also vote to give her that authority today — and that she wouldn’t have to go back to council members for approval.
The city under its federally-funded Covid-19 response programs spent a total of $5.8 million on testing and contact tracing for residents last year, and had contracted with the private health care group Medica to provide the services.
Officials under that program provided a total 35,455 free Covid-19 tests to residents, according to Eakins.
But the funding for that program was exhausted last month, staff say in their report.
While there are still testing options available from health care agencies and sites like the Anaheim Convention Center and OC Fairgrounds, city staff cite a local interest in providing easily accessible testing for residents.
And as California looks to vaccine distribution, whenever that will happen, Santa Ana officials say there’s an opportunity for a vaccination site in the city.
Staff say such local vaccination protocols are currently in development, but should “be available within the next two weeks” and that the city could be eligible for a reimbursement of related costs through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
In December, the city had already set aside an extra $500,000 to its Covid-19 response program out of Santa Ana’s federal allocation of Community Development Block Grant funds — but that money was specifically earmarked to serve low-income residents.
Staff say the city’s taxpayer general fund would be the only source of extra money to draw from to serve residents who don’t meet that criteria.
Santa Ana alone has seen more than 30,000 total confirmed cases of Covid-19.
Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member at Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @photherecord.