San Diego County should pay $10M in youth athletic fees, supervisor says
Young athletes kept out of school and sports for a year should get a share of COVID-19 assistance, Supervisor Jim Desmond said Wednesday, at a press conference announcing his proposal to spend $10 million of federal COVID-19 assistance to cover registration fees for youth sports.
Desmond is one of two Republicans on the five-member Board of Supervisors, which is expected to consider COVID-19 aid next week when it discusses how to spend $647.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. Half of that money is available this year, and the other half will be paid out starting a year from now.
“There’s a lot of competition and different proposals by different supervisors,” Desmond said. “I’ve been trying to stress the businesses and youth.”
The money would cover sports registration fees, which can run several hundred dollars per child, he said. It would not include other expenses such as uniforms, gear and travel, but it would potentially free funds for parents to pay for those.
Desmond said he hopes the money would benefit athletes up to age 18. He hasn’t established the number of players he expects to participate but said county staff would determine how to identify young athletes and reimburse athletic fees.
At $400 per child — a typical fee for youth football according to local sports officials at the event — the $10 million could cover up to 25,000 kids throughout the county.
As families struggle with income loss during the pandemic, the proposal could help them afford to pay for their children’s activities, particularly when they have multiple kids in sports, officials said.
Aaron Majors, a football coach and sponsorship director of the Skyline Youth Football and Spirit Association, said working and middle class parents in his district have lost jobs or seen their work hours cut from full to part-time.
“At some point you’ve got to decide whether to take care of responsibilities or sacrifice a little to play sports,” he said.
Although many parents are willing to scrape together money for their children’s activities, they sometimes face the tough task of choosing which child to enroll, officials said.
“If those fees are waived, more kids will be able to get out there and participate,” said `Elizabeth Tate, vice chair of the USA Track and Field Youth Committee. “It will give these kids an opportunity to get their feet wet, to like it and then to fund-raise for next season.”
She said local track and field teams have not been able to reserve practice time at schools because of COVID-19 restrictions, so players have to practice at home or in parks. Attendance at her organization’s first two meets of the season last month was down by more than half, from 600 or more competitors to just 300 at each event.
The proposal to cover sports fees is one of several Desmond has recently introduced. He recently called for the county to spend $50 million in COVID relief funds on restaurants to encourage dining out and another $40 million on housing and other assistance for police, firefighters, military personnel and National Guard troops. Some of the money to help first responders could come out of unspent rental assistance from previous grants, he said.
Desmond said he’s unsure if the other supervisors would support the full $10 million he’s asking for sports, but said he hopes they will approve “a big piece of it.”
“I think this is very important to kids, after a year of no school and no sports,” he said.
—Deborah Sullivan-Brennan is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune
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