Mayor's office: 'Too early to tell' if city will backfill expected federal HIV cuts

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday May 8, 2024
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San Francisco Mayor London Breed's office said May 8 that it would not commit to backfilling expected federal HIV/AIDS budget cuts. Photo: Rick Gerharter
San Francisco Mayor London Breed's office said May 8 that it would not commit to backfilling expected federal HIV/AIDS budget cuts. Photo: Rick Gerharter

A spokesperson for Mayor London Breed said May 8 that it's "too early to tell" whether her proposed budget will backfill an expected $500,000-$800,000 shortfall in HIV funding from the federal government.

The news comes as San Francisco faces a difficult budget year that has seen HIV/AIDS advocates hoping that funding can be preserved for existing services.

As the Bay Area Reporter previously reported, Laura Thomas, senior director of HIV and harm reduction policy at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, said during a May 6 teach-in titled "Queering the San Francisco Budget" that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "has already let San Francisco know we're going to get a cut in our federal HIV prevention dollars, and it will probably be $500,000-$800,000 in a cut. We don't know exactly yet, but we should know in the next couple of months."

Asked about the expected decrease in federal HIV funding by the B.A.R., a mayoral spokesperson discussing the issue on background said the exact figure is "too early to tell." The person added that the mayor's budget office will "work with the Department of Public Health to address the size of those cuts."

When asked if Breed was committed to filling them, the spokesperson said, "It's too early to tell given our budget, but we remain committed to this community."

Typically, the city has backfilled cuts in HIV funding from the federal government. For example, in 2013, then-mayor Ed Lee and the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved backfilling $3 million.

In 2014, Lee agreed to backfill $2.7 million in HIV-related funding cuts that had been expected for the next fiscal year.

And in 2022, Breed included a $3 million increase in HIV funding in her two-year budget to maintain prevention services.

Breed has until June 1 to submit to the Board of Supervisors her budget proposal for this year and is likely to issue it in late May.

As the B.A.R. previously reported, Breed last December asked city departments for 10% cuts across the board. A deficit of about $800 million is expected over the next two fiscal years, and Breed has said it could reach $1 billion by Fiscal Year 2028.

Breed had also asked department heads to come up with 5% in potential additional cuts, according to Thomas.

In a statement, Thomas reiterated how crucial backfilling the funds is.

"SFAF greatly appreciates Mayor Breed's long-standing support for HIV services in San Francisco," Thomas stated via email. "These federally-funded HIV prevention programs are essential to hold the line on new HIV infections and achieve our goals of getting to zero new HIV transmissions. We know that the mayor and the Board of Supervisors understand how important it is to fill these federal funding gaps."

The Board of Supervisors Budget and Appropriations Committee was meeting Wednesday afternoon and heard from youth service providers, including LGBTQ organizations, and their clients and supporters who spoke out against cuts to their funding during this year's budget negotiations. Its members include chair District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan, gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, and District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar, who were all unavailable for comment.

Breed is facing a tough reelection campaign against Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, who represents District 3 and also sits on the budget and appropriations committee that was meeting Wednesday; District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safaí; her predecessor, former mayor Mark Farrell, who served as mayor for six months in 2018; and Levi Strauss heir Daniel Lurie.

Safaí stated he'd work to ameliorate the cuts.

"The federal budget cuts are a real threat to our public health efforts in San Francisco and across the state," he stated. "They could seriously set back our progress in combating the HIV and AIDS epidemic. Our city needs the mayor to step up and protect these crucial services. During the budget process, I will continue to fight for HIV programs that protect our most vulnerable communities."

Peskin did not return a request for comment.

Farrell, who committed to the B.A.R. at his campaign launch he would backfill federal HIV cuts, stated May 8, "I have and will always do whatever it takes to backfill cuts in federal HIV prevention dollars to provide critical services and support to our LGBTQ and other communities. I am committed to filling the gaps left by federal budget cuts to HIV and AIDS prevention programs, ensuring that vital support remains intact."

Lurie previously told the B.A.R. that he would support a backfill of hundreds of thousands of dollars but wouldn't commit in perpetuity if, for example, Republicans in Congress are able to push through cuts to HIV funds in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Asked May 8 by the B.A.R. about this year's pending cut, Lurie stated, "Every San Francisco mayor has backfilled Republican-driven cuts to federal HIV funding, and we cannot stop now."

He noted it would be "a few hundred thousand dollars" in a budget that totals $14.6 billion.

"That's a small sum for important services when the City Hall insiders I'm running against continue to throw money at wasteful, unaccountable programs that fail to deliver results. It's time for a new era of accountable leadership from outside City Hall," stated Lurie.

Updated, 5/9/24: This article has been updated with comments from SFAF and Supervisor and mayoral candidate Ahsha Safaí.

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