Desmond proposes using $10M in federal relief funds to waive youth sports fees

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SAN DIEGO — County Supervisor Jim Desmond wants to spend $10 million on youth sports this year with part of $300 million in federal relief coming to the county from the American Rescue Plan Act.

“Youth sports participation is down, and I don’t want money to be the reason,” Desmond said at a Wednesday morning news conference.

He said baseball participation is down nearly 20% in the county, and track and field numbers are down more than 50% for some programs. Desmond thinks part of it stems from parents unable to pay registration fees.

Unemployment rose to more than 30% at times during the pandemic.

“I had many parents tell me last summer that coming to our practices was the lone strand of normalcy in their kids’ lives, or the one thing their kids had to look forward to,” Clairmont Hilltoppers Little League Spokesperson Ken Cicalo said.

Cicalo said the league didn’t take any money from families as they tiptoed their way through the summer and fall.

“As we started up in February, we were again limited to practices only, and again, did not collect any money from parents,” he said.

The lack of revenue put a strain on youth programs, requiring them to somehow come up with the money themselves. Cicalo said it’s been nearly impossible because concession stands were closed, fundraisers non-existent during the pandemic, and now sponsors are dropping off because their businesses are closing down. All the more reason why he said financial help is needed.

“I would not be here today without youth sports,” Aaron Majors with Skyline Youth Football and Spirit Association said.

He said excluding kids from sports right now, when they arguably need it most, would be a major mistake.

“As a kid, when my parents got divorced, my coaches were there, and teammates were there. When I had a loss in the family, my team was there, coaches were there,” Majors said. “When my father wasn’t there, my coach would show up at graduation. The impact we provide to the community is immeasurable.”

Desmond will bring his proposal to the county board of supervisors on Tuesday, June 8 for a vote. Other supervisors will likely bring their own proposals as well.

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