The fiscal impact from the response to asylum seekers dropped off in Riverside County saw a single-month 222% increase in March 2021 in comparison to 2019.
“Throughout the month of March, the approximate cost for the county’s response is $242,000,” stated Riverside County Public Information Officer (PIO) Brooke Federico to the Times on April 7. “For comparison, the county incurred costs of approximately $75,000 a month for three months back in 2019. These costs were never reimbursed to the county from the state or federal government. The costs are significantly higher this time due to the need for motel room accommodations for those who need to isolate or quarantine.”
As previously reported, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) resumed dropping migrants off in Blythe on March 3.
The individuals were processed directly at the local Border Patrol station, before being transferred the same day to a designated center in the greater Coachella Valley.
Notably, the current 2021 climate of increased illegal immigration includes the added variable of COVID to the challenge of safely addressing asylum seekers and providing according services.
“After picking up the immigrants seeking asylum from CBP, a county team administers rapid COVID-19 testing for everyone and practices strict COVID-19 safeguards to reduce and stop potential disease transmission. These safeguards include ensuring all staff and immigrants are wearing personal protective equipment,” stated Riverside County in March. “If someone tests positive, the individual and any others exposed are provided private accommodations for isolation at local motels throughout Riverside County. However, available motel space is extremely limited and this practice will not be sustainable without immediate intervention from the state and federal governments. Individuals and families who are not exposed to COVID-19, are provided shelter, meals and clothing from local nonprofit organizations.”
The response coordination has included Riverside County’s Housing Authority, Public Health, Behavioral Health, Social Services, and Emergency Management Department (EMD) to go along with the stated nonprofits’ support.
As of April 6, 696 individuals have been received by the county since the start of the 2021 response – 312 of whom were dropped off and transferred from the Border Patrol station in Blythe (44.83%).
The current surge in asylum seekers is expected to continue in “far greater” numbers than in 2019, which saw more than 1,000 families (totaling more than 2,800 people) processed throughout Riverside County.
The matter of limited hotel space and resources, along with COVID’s ongoing impact, has continued to underline county leadership’s call for immediate intervention and substantive support from the state and federal government.
“During a meeting with state and federal partners last week, federal partners committed to reimbursing most of the county’s costs,” noted Federico.