In this post, we analyze the Governor’s budget proposal to provide increased federal spending authority to the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) in order to allow the receipt of federal grant monies that were recently made available to the state. Below, we provide key background on the grant, describe the state’s initial plan to spend the grant funds, assess the plan and the Governor’s proposal, and provide associated recommendations.
Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) Modified Federal Firearm Laws and Provided Grant Funds to States. BSCA, which was signed by President Biden on June 25, 2022, made various changes to federal firearm laws, including expanding background check requirements, broadening the scope of existing restrictions, and establishing new criminal offenses. In addition, the act authorized over $4.5 billion for various new and existing programs intended to promote access to behavioral and mental health services, enhance school safety and security initiatives, and address gun violence in communities.
BSCA Established the State Crisis Intervention Program (SCIP). BSCA authorized $750 million over five years to the United States Department of Justice (U.S. DOJ) for SCIP. Under SCIP, states receive grants to implement crisis intervention programs—which broadly seek to address situations involving people who could potentially be a danger to themselves or others due to physical, mental, or other distress. The goal of the program is to reduce crime and violence, with a particular focus on gun violence. Examples of eligible activities include:
Extreme risk protection order programs, which temporarily limit firearm access for people who are believed to be at imminent risk of harming themselves or others.
Drug, mental health, and veteran collaborative courts, which are special courts for criminal defendants that combine judicial supervision with rehabilitation, treatment, or other services to address the defendant’s underlying needs in order to improve defendant outcomes.
Behavioral health crisis mobile response teams, which are teams that can consist of law enforcement, mental health counselors, and/or others to respond to emergency calls in which a person is suffering from a mental health crisis.
SCIP Funds Allocated to States by Formula. BSCA requires SCIP funds to be allocated to states by a formula that is used for an existing federal grant program called the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program. This formula allocates funding based on each state’s share of the overall population and violent crime. A designated entity within each state—which, in California, is BSCC—can apply to the U.S. DOJ to receive the funding. Due to the timing of when BSCA was enacted, the U.S. DOJ decided to combine the first and second years of funding in one application period. Through this first application period, California will receive $29.2 million through the formula. The first- and second-year funds can be spent over a period of five years. Specifically, the funds can be spent from October 2022 to September 2026, with a possible 12-month extension. The state would receive these funds from the federal government on a reimbursement basis, meaning the state would first be required to spend its own funds before being reimbursed shortly after with SCIP funds.
State allocations for the remaining three years of funding have not yet been calculated. However, California will likely be eligible to receive around half of the current amount—or about $15 million per year for three years—because future application periods will each only include one year of funding. BSCC anticipates that it will have to re-apply annually to the U.S. DOJ to receive the remaining three years of funding.
State Must Submit Plan Approved by Crisis Intervention Advisory Board to Receive SCIP Funds. To receive SCIP funding, each state must submit, as part of its application to the federal government, an initial plan outlining how it intends to use SCIP funds. States must also form a Crisis Intervention Advisory Board. Board members must include, but are not limited to, representatives from law enforcement, the community, courts, prosecution, behavioral health providers, victim services, and legal counsel. This board is required to review the initial plan and approve or modify it to finalize the plan. Before states can begin receiving grant funds, they must submit documentation to the U.S. DOJ showing that the Crisis Intervention Advisory Board has approved the plan.
Portion of SCIP Funds Must Be Passed Through to Local Government. States are allowed to keep up to 60 percent of SCIP funds, with a minimum of 40 percent of funds required to be passed through to local governments. States are allowed to determine how the funds passed through to local governments are used. In addition, states can determine which local governments receive funds, with the exception of a portion of funds that must be passed on to certain very small jurisdictions. Specifically, states are required to provide this portion of funds to state courts that serve these small jurisdictions and/or pass the funds directly to the jurisdictions. Of the initial $29.2 million allocation for California, up to $17.5 million can be kept by the state, a minimum of $10.7 million must be directly passed through to local governments, and a minimum of $997,000 must be provided to courts that serve small jurisdictions and/or to the small jurisdictions themselves. Up to 10 percent of the total amount—or $2.9 million—can be used for direct administrative costs. Under BSCA, SCIP funding cannot be used to supplant state or local funds.
State Has Not Finalized Plan for SCIP Funding. In December 2022, BSCC staff applied to the U.S. DOJ for the first allocation of SCIP funding. The application included an initial plan for the funds, which we describe in the next section. At its February 9, 2023 meeting, BSCC established the state’s Crisis Intervention Advisory Board consisting of all members of the BSCC board as well as two additional members that are intended to represent prosecution, behavioral health, victim services, and legal counsel. BSCC staff intend to recommend that the Crisis Intervention Advisory Board approve the initial plan in order to adopt it as the state’s finalized plan at its next meeting on April 13, 2023. BSCC staff would subsequently submit documentation of this approval to the U.S. DOJ to enable the state to begin receiving SCIP funds.
As previously mentioned, in California’s application for $29.2 million in SCIP funding, BSCC provided its initial plan for use of the SCIP funds. Under the plan, the state would spend the $29.2 million over a five-year period.
State Share Distributed by Judicial Council ($17.5 Million). Under the initial plan submitted to U.S. DOJ by BSCC, the state would retain $17.5 million in SCIP funds—the maximum allowable share. BSCC would enter into an agreement with Judicial Council to administer these funds. Of this amount, Judicial Council proposes to distribute about $15.4 million in grants to state trial courts to temporarily establish new or expand existing drug, mental health, and veteran collaborative courts. Such funds would be used to support court-related personnel costs as well as the costs of behavioral health and other services provided to participants.
The remaining amount of the state share—$2.1 million—would be used to support BSCC administrative costs and for Judicial Council to support approximately five positions on a limited-term basis for two key purposes. First, these Judicial Council staff would manage the distribution of the collaborative court grant funding to trial courts, monitor the use of such funds, and provide training and other technical assistance. Second, these staff would conduct research on how courts and local partners are complying with Proposition 63 (2016) firearm relinquishment requirements. (A summary of the Proposition 63 firearm relinquishment process is discussed in the nearby box.) This research would include how relinquishment orders are being enforced, how relinquished firearms are retained, and what information is being documented. According to Judicial Council, this research would be used to identify implementation challenges and effective practices in order to help develop statewide model procedures to assist courts in facilitating firearm relinquishment orders. Judicial Council staff would also provide the necessary training and technical assistance related to Proposition 63 to trial courts and their criminal justice partners.
Proposition 63, approved by voters in 2016, created a new court process to ensure that people convicted of criminal offenses that prohibit them from owning firearms relinquish them. Courts are required to inform people upon conviction that they must (1) turn over their firearms to local law enforcement, (2) sell the firearms to a licensed firearm dealer, or (3) give the firearms to a licensed firearm dealer for storage. Courts are also required to assign county probation officers to report on what these people have done with their firearms. If the court finds that there is probable cause that such a person still has firearms, it must order that the firearms be removed. Finally, Proposition 63 authorized local governments or state agencies to charge a fee to reimburse them for certain costs in implementing the measure (such as those related to the removal or storage of firearms).
Local Direct Pass Through Distributed by BSCC ($10.7 Million). BSCC would administer the $10.7 million local share of SCIP funding. This funding would be distributed to local governments to fund various activities. Under the plan, this funding could support law enforcement firearm relinquishment programs, behavioral health programs for those at risk to themselves or others, and programs that support collaborative courts. However, many key details of the proposed grant program have not been determined at this time.
Funding to Serve Small Jurisdictions Distributed by Judicial Council ($997,000). BSCC would enter into an agreement with Judicial Council to administer the $997,000 in funding designated to serve certain small jurisdictions. Judicial Council would identify trial courts that serve these small jurisdictions and encourage that at least one of these courts apply for funding to represent all of the remaining courts serving small jurisdictions. The funding is expected to be used to support new or expanded collaborative courts and/or to focus on developing local policies and procedures related to gun violence, firearm relinquishment, as well as ammunition and lethal weapon buybacks.
Increased Federal Spending Authority. The Governor’s budget proposes to augment BSCC’s federal fund authority by $50 million annually for five years beginning in 2023‑24 (for a total of $250 million) in order to allow it to receive and spend the anticipated SCIP funding. The department indicates that it estimated this level based on preliminary information that suggested the state might have been able to receive up to $250 million in SCIP funds.
Submitting Finalized SCIP Plan in April Unnecessarily Limits Legislative Input. As discussed above, BSCC staff intend to request that the Crisis Intervention Advisory Board approve and finalize the initial plan for SCIP funds at its April 13, 2023 meeting. BSCC staff plan to subsequently submit documentation of this approval to the U.S. DOJ to enable the state to begin implementing the program. While it is understandable that BSCC would be eager to submit a finalized plan in order to receive the funding as quickly as possible, it would effectively mean that the use of grant funds would be finalized before the enactment of the 2023‑24 budget. This would prevent the Legislature from having sufficient time to deliberate and provide any guidance on the plan, as well as take any corresponding actions as part of the budget package, prior to the plan being finalized. According to BSCC, there is no specific deadline set by the U.S. DOJ for when states must obtain approval from the Crisis Intervention Advisory Board or submit their final plan.
Proposed Uses of SCIP Funding Appear Permissible. We find that BSCC’s initial plan to use SCIP funding appears permissible under the federal guidelines. Specifically, the Judicial Council’s proposal to distribute funds to trial courts for new or expanded drug, mental health, and veterans’ collaborative courts—as well as for Judicial Council staff to support these programs—could help address behavioral health for those at risk to themselves or others. This is because these programs can help ensure that people engaging in criminal activities due to a behavioral health issue actually receive treatment to address their underlying needs. Additionally, the proposed funding related to Proposition 63 research and the development of statewide policies and procedures related to firearm relinquishment would support gun violence reduction by ensuring that those who are not legally permitted to possess firearms no longer do so. Finally, the expected uses of the direct local pass through as well as the funding to support small jurisdictions appear permissible.
Legislature May Have Different Priorities for SCIP Funding. While the planned use of the funds appears permissible under the federal guidelines, the Legislature may have different priorities for SCIP funding. For example, the Legislature may want to ensure that a greater share of funding is targeted towards reducing gun violence rather than addressing behavioral health needs through the planned funding for collaborative courts. This could include directing funding to extreme risk protection order programs, gun violence recovery courts, the development of validated gun violence risk assessment tools, and funding for law enforcement agencies to store and track relinquished firearms. Alternatively, the Legislature may want to prioritize funding to address behavioral health needs, which could involve funding other activities rather than collaborative courts.
Requested Reimbursement Authority Not Aligned With Anticipated Amount of Federal Funds. As discussed above, BSCC estimated that, to receive and spend SCIP funds, it would need a five-year $50 million augmentation in federal funds authority—a total of $250 million—based on preliminary information about the program. Subsequently, BSCC learned that the state is eligible to apply for only $29.2 million via its current application and potentially around $15 million for each of the subsequent three applications—a total of roughly $75 million. (We note that the judicial branch—which would not receive any reimbursement authority under the Governor’s proposal—has indicated that it may require increased reimbursement authority in order to expend its proposed share of funding.)
Direct BSCC Not to Finalize Use of Grant Funds Until After Budget Adopted. As discussed above, BSCC intends to seek approval on the use of SCIP funds from the Crisis Intervention Advisory Board in April. This means that the use of SCIP funds would be finalized before the Legislature has completed its deliberations on the 2023‑24 budget. To ensure that the Legislature has the opportunity to provide direction to BSCC on the use of these funds through the 2023‑24 budget package, we recommend directing BSCC not to finalize the use of grant funds until after the 2023‑24 budget is adopted.
Ensure SCIP Funding Plan Reflects Legislative Priorities. We recommend the Legislature ensure the finalized SCIP funding plan and related budget actions reflect its priorities for the use of the initial $29.2 million in SCIP funding. In order to assist the Legislature in determining its priorities, we identify below a series of key issues and guiding principles for its consideration.
Maximize Use of SCIP Funds to Limit New General Fund Spending. Given the deterioration in the state’s budget condition, together with projected out-year deficits, it would be beneficial to utilize SCIP funds to support new or expanded programs that are eligible for SCIP funding under the federal guidelines and would otherwise be supported with new General Fund spending. For example, the Governor’s budget proposes $10.6 million General Fund in 2023‑24 (increasing to $33 million to upon full implementation) for the Department of Social Services to support increased child welfare social worker workload related to their participation in Child and Family Teams for certain families at risk of child removal. This can include social workers helping children or their families connect with services to address underlying behavioral issues that could result in them presenting a risk to themselves or others. To the extent the Legislature prioritizes this proposal, it would want to explore the possibility of initially funding it with SCIP funding rather than General Fund as proposed by the Governor—which would include rejecting the Governor’s proposal to use General Fund.
Focus on Funding Limited-Term Programs or Activities. Given that the federal funding is one time in nature, it would be prudent to focus the funds on supporting programs or activities that are limited term in nature in order to prevent the creation of new ongoing General Fund cost pressures in the out-years relative to the Governor’s budget. A couple examples include using SCIP funding to (1) reduce current backlogs (such the seizing of firearms to reduce the current total number of people who are prohibited from having them) and (2) support start-up implementation costs that would eventually be supported with non-General Fund resources (such as establishing Proposition 63 firearm relinquishment processes that would subsequently be funded from fees charged as allowed under Proposition 63).
Consider Using Funding to Support Pilot Programs. The Legislature could consider using the funding to test new programs or activities, in order to determine their cost-effectiveness and whether they merit consideration for state funding in the future. For example, the Legislature could use the funding to pilot and evaluate (1) behavioral health crisis response teams to provide immediate and informed assistance to people suffering a mental health crisis or (2) the implementation of validated gun violence risk assessment tools to identify people at risk of being victims of gun violence so that they can receive case management or intervention services to reduce this risk. Pilot programs that measure impacts across multiple cities and counties within California could help the Legislature assess whether such programs are cost-effective and merit being expanded statewide if sufficient resources are available in the future. This includes providing the Legislature with the necessary information to weigh the tested programs or activities against other legislative priorities, to the extent new ongoing General Fund support would be needed or if additional federal funds become available to support them. It would also help determine whether the programs may need to operate differently based on key factors (such as county size or population density) as well as whether there are any implementation challenges or barriers that may need to be addressed.
Weigh Relative Priorities in Utilizing Funds at the State or Local Level. Depending on its priorities, the Legislature will want to consider whether funding would be most effectively used at the state or local level. While the minimum local pass-through amount cannot be reduced, the state can provide more funding to local governments. For example, if the Legislature determines that the priority should be to ensure people suffering from behavioral health crises are not harmed and receive immediate service locally, the Legislature could consider providing more money from the state share to local entities to support, or test, more programs and activities—such as increased training for law enforcement in dealing with people with mental health issues, crisis mobile response teams, peer support services, or behavioral health crisis stabilization centers.
Ensure Legislative Priorities for Use of SCIP Funds Are Reflected in Budget Package. In order to ensure that the Legislature’s priorities regarding the use of SCIP funds are adhered to by the administration, it will be important to take steps as part of the budget package to restrict the use of the funds to those priorities. This includes enacting appropriate budget bill language that specifies how SCIP funding should be distributed to state and local entities, the types of activities and programs that are eligible to be funded, and any funding conditions. Examples of funding conditions could include requiring that funding to local entities be distributed in a competitive manner to ensure the strongest ideas receive support or that courts, local entities, or community-based organizations are required to partner with one another through a joint application to ensure there is a high level of coordination to achieve desired outcomes.
Align BSCC’s Federal Funds Authority With Funding Level Anticipated Through State’s First Allocation. Given that the Governor’s proposal would provide BSCC with excess federal funds authority, which potentially limits legislative oversight, we recommend that the Legislature only approve the amounts necessary for BSCC to receive and spend the $29.2 million anticipated through the state’s first application. Specifically, we recommend increasing BSCC’s federal funds authority by $29.2 million in 2023‑24 and adopting budget bill language specifying that the authority can be used through 2026‑27, as SCIP funds may not be spent after September 2026. We note that the Legislature may also need to adjust the level of reimbursement authority for Judicial Council—and/or other state entities that the Legislature may choose to involve—so that it can receive grant funds from BSCC.
Do Not Approve Increased Federal Funds Authority Related to Future SCIP Applications. As discussed above, it is expected that BSCC will be able to submit applications for about $15 million in additional SCIP funding per year in 2024‑25, 2025‑26 and 2026‑27. However, at this time it is not clear how this money would be used. Accordingly, we recommend not providing federal funds authority to BSCC for such funds at this time. The administration can request the necessary adjustments in future budget cycles when more information is available about how the funds would be used and when associated reimbursements from the federal government would be received.