COVID-19: Pivoting Public Services During a Pandemic

As the enormity of the COVID-19 pandemic hit this spring, the entire community – parents, seniors, workers, business owners, renters, recent immigrants – looked to the County of San Mateo for public services and leadership.

The County is a large and diverse organization with 5,500 employees across 20 departments. Those employees provide a wide range of services, from protecting public health to filing potholes, running elections to answering 911 calls. The County also contracts with community-based organizations that house the homeless, feed families barely making ends meet and train the unemployed for new careers, among dozens of other services.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented new challenges: How to continue to deliver vital services while guarding against the coronavirus? What new services will be needed?

Managers in programs funded by Measure K responded to the outbreak by supporting employees as they worked at home and shifting service delivery to online models whenever possible.

And as the economy struggled, the Board of Supervisors in March allocated $3 million in Measure K funds as emergency relief for individuals, families, nonprofit organizations and small businesses. 

The Board, also in response to the pandemic, has allocated additional Measure K funds to schools in underserved areas of the county, to assist nonprofit agencies serving the most vulnerable residents and in other targeted areas. As the 2020-21 fiscal year began, the Board approved relief and economic recovery efforts with Measure K funds for recent immigrants, homeless families and other segments of the population most in need.

Patricia Cervantes, food connection specialist at Second Harvest of Silicon Valley.

"A single father of two called Second Harvest on the hotline, but he couldn’t ask for help because he couldn’t talk. It was just too much for him that he passed the phone to his young son. I could hear the father crying in the background. I asked the son to put me on speaker, so the dad could hear me. I told them, ‘Everything is going to be okay. You have a referral to get groceries for you and your children and you also have other resources like CalFresh. We’re here when you’re ready.”--  Patricia Cervantes

Performance Summary 2019-20 Fiscal Year

Measure K Category Initiatives Performance Measures Target Met Target Not Met Not Met as a Result of COVID-19 % of Measures Not Met as Result of COVID-19
Public Safety 8 13 10 3 1 33.3%
Health and Mental Health 9 19 10 8 8 100.0%
Youth and Education 21 49 37 12 10 83.3%
Housing and Homelessness 30 57 25 23 4 17.4%
Parks and Environment 43 43 23 18 12 66.7%
Older Adults and Veterans 11 29 18 11 10 90.9%
Community Services 17 35 13 13 12 92.3%

Note: Totals for Target Met/Not Met may not total the number of Performance Measures. This is due to data under development,
changes to programs or other circumstances as detailed in the performance table.