Breaking: Lee to restore all HIV/AIDS funds
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Mayor Ed Lee will restore all of about $6 million in federal HIV/AIDS funds that the city expects to lose in the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Supervisor Scott Wiener confirmed the information to the Bay Area Reporter this morning (Thursday, May 17).
"The mayor really gets it," Wiener said. "He understands this city has a 30-year commitment to those impacted by this disease, and he has been just an incredible, incredible ally. I'm just really thrilled that he's doing this."
City officials and service providers have expressed grave concern about the impact that the cuts would have on people living with and at risk for HIV and AIDS. Reductions from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act will be about $4.6 million in fiscal year 2012-13, and cuts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be around $3.1 million. The Ryan White decrease alone was expected to result in a 20 percent cut in funding to local nonprofits.[Upated: Lee spokesman Francis Tsang said in an email that the restoration is $6.6 million "because of a smaller reduction than expected" from the city's Ryan White Part B award.]
Wiener, who said he's been working "very closely" with Lee and his staff for about six months to restore federal funds for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention, also said, "My desire has always been the mayor would restore everything."
Lee is able to backfill the gap "because of improving revenue," said Wiener. The city's projected budget deficit for next year has declined from approximately $170 million to about $150 million.
"Tax revenue has been trending up," Wiener said. However, he said, "The wild card in all this" is state and federal government actions. He referred to California Governor Jerry Brown's announcement earlier this week that he wants to slash more than $8 billion from the state budget to help close a gap of almost $16 billion.
"We don't know what impact that is going to have on our budget, but our own budget has been improving," Wiener said.
Wiener also noted that a drop in federal HIV/AIDS funds approximately matching the $8 million that's expected for next year is also anticipated in fiscal year 2013-14.
He said Lee indicated to the community-based organizations that met with Lee and other city officials Thursday morning that over the coming months "we need to all work together to figure out what we need to do into the future."
For now, Wiener said, "I'm grateful that we have a mayor who gets it when it comes to HIV, and who just decided to resolve the issue out of the gate and not create chaos at the Board of Supervisors during the add-back process."
At a budget town hall in April with Wiener and Supervisor David Campos, who are both gay, Lee said that he and his administration "haven't made any decisions on the budget yet." But he did say his administration was looking at how to pay for the federal AIDS cuts with local dollars.
"It is up to us to find that money," sad Lee.
Wiener, Campos, and bisexual Supervisor Christina Olague have all been pushing for the restorations.
The mayor's decision came one day after Wiener, Campos, and Olague joined with HIV/AIDS service providers and clients at a news conference in front of City Hall in which they called on Lee to restore the cuts. The B.A.R. also editorialized in its Thursday issue for Lee to backfill the money.
Mike Smith, president of the city's HIV/AIDS Provider Network, said in a statement, "We are deeply grateful to the mayor for his bold decision to use city funds to replace federal HIV/AIDS program cuts that would have destabilized San Francisco's nationally recognized system of care and prevention. His leadership will help thousands of San Franciscan continue to access HIV/AIDS treatment services and will prevent the further spread of new infections."
Smith, who's also executive director of the AIDS Emergency Fund, added, "In this time of decreasing state and federal funding, his action today reaffirms our city's long-standing commitment to people with HIV/AIDS."
[Updated: Lee spokeswoman Christine Falvey said that the mayor "worked very closely with the impacted groups," city Health Director Barbara Garcia, and others to restore the funding. Since "early on" in the process, Falvey said, Lee "wanted to prioritize protecting these funds," despite the city budget gaps that remain.
She said Lee was concerned about "the devastating impacts not funding these programs would have on people living with HIV and AIDS."
Falvey also said, "There has been some good news" on city finances, "but there's still a pretty serious shortfall to overcome between now and June 1," when Lee is to submit his budget proposal to supervisors.
Lee's asked HIV/AIDS-related community-based organizations to start looking at the 2013-14 cuts within the next few months, she said. Using the same "collaborative approach that resulted in this funding restoration is something the mayor is interested in continuing," and the mayor wants to maintain "an open dialogue" with those involved, Falvey said.]