Rep. Mike Levin, D-Dana Point, said Thursday that federal lawmakers must include funding for local cities in the next round of COVID-19 relief to avoid government job layoffs.
“City governments provide essential services that are often taken for granted,” Levin said. “They pay law enforcement and firefighters who keep us safe, maintenance workers who make sure our water is clean, and frontline workers who are helping distribute vaccines.
“Many cities have already cut back on services and laid off public servants, and if we don’t get them federal aid, they could be forced to lay off more essential workers who are helping us get through this pandemic,” Levin said. “At the local level, this isn’t a partisan issue. Mayors from both parties are pleading for this federal assistance, and I’m optimistic we can deliver it as part of the American Rescue Plan.”
Levin this week signed on to a bipartisan letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy from the Orange County congressional delegation. Only Rep. Young Kim, R-Fullerton, did not sign the letter.
Orange County Supervisor Doug Chaffee said that Orange County’s cities are “hurting” with budget shortfalls due to the pandemic.
When the CARES Act stimulus was approved last year, states received 60% with counties receiving 40%, Chaffee said. Governmental agencies had to have a population of at least 500,000 to qualify for the funding, so that left out a lot of municipalities, Chaffee said.
“In fact, no city in Orange County, California, met the population threshold,” the Orange County congressional delegation said in the letter.
Some local cities received a healthy share of CARES Act funding from the state, such as Santa Ana and Anaheim, “but they have their own lobbyists,” Chaffee said. Those cities also had higher costs as their residents were more at risk from coronavirus, he added.
“If the county gets its share, that’s fine,” Chaffee said of direct funding to cities from the federal government in the next round of stimulus.
“Then we get out of the middle of who gets what,” Chaffee said.
Orange County CEO Frank Kim said that no matter what the federal lawmakers do, funding for local municipalities is a must.
“I know in this current version of the House bill, cities over 50,000 would get direct funding,” Kim said. “And I believe all counties would be getting funding. It’s not guaranteed. I was on a conference call this morning where they indicated there’s still a chance of modifications to the funding formula or language could change. I know nothing is guaranteed, but I can absolutely say we need the funding.”
County officials expect to have a hole in next fiscal year’s budget between $150 million to $170 million as the county has paid for COVID-19-related services.
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