Barstow veterans home may be forced to close because of CA budget crisis linked to COVID-19

About 200 veterans may be forced to relocate because a facility in Barstow is slated for closure during the state budget crisis.
BARSTOW, Calif. (KABC) -- The Veterans Home of Barstow has fared well during the COVID-19 pandemic, with none of the residents nor the staff contracting the virus.

But a devastating blow came last week, with a letter from the state's Department of Veterans Affairs announcing the planned closure of the facility because of the massive budget shortfall the state is now facing.

"To make cuts for people who served our country is a disgrace," said veteran Jess Burnett. "We fought for our country, and we deserve a place that we call home."

It's no secret the pandemic has had a devastating effect on the economy.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a projected $54 billion deficit in the state's budget next year. Newsom's budget summary indicated that while closing the facility would only save approximately $400,000 in next year's budget, the closure would eventually save approximately $14 million annually when implemented.

"This is my home," said veteran Virginia McDougall. "We don't have any place else to live."

If the facility were to close, approximately 200 veterans would likely be relocated to one of six other facilities across the state. But many of the veterans at the Barstow facility are hopeful that state lawmakers can come up with another solution.

"It is unforgivable that our governor of California would begin slashing our budget at a veterans home," said veteran Beverly Gordon, who has lived at the Barstow facility for more than 20 years.

"There surely are other places where he could start slashing."

The decision isn't final. The state legislature is required to vote on a balanced budget by next month. Assemblyman Jay Obernolte objects to the facility's closure.

"I am extremely disappointed that Governor Newsom is proposing to close our veteran home in Barstow due to the State's budget deficit," said Obernolte in a statement provided to Eyewitness News.

"It's unconscionable to balance the budget on the backs of our veterans and even worse to displace the 200 residents who currently call this home - some who have lived here ever since it opened."
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