Jessica Cejnar / Tuesday, May 5 @ 2:20 p.m. / Emergencies, Health, Local Government
County Lobbies for Direct Allocation of COVID-19 Stimulus Dollars to Local, Small Governments
Though it wasn’t unanimous, county supervisors will send a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer urging them to remember small communities in an upcoming COVID-19 stimulus bill.
District 1 Supervisor Roger Gitlin on Tuesday opposed sending the letter, saying there are other interventions the county could pursue rather than a bailout.
Both letters thank Pelosi and Schumer for advocating for funding of state and local governments of all sizes during the COVID-19 emergency. It urges them to continue that advocacy and mentions Del Norte County’s support of HR 6467, the Coronavirus Community Relief Act.
The Coronavirus Community Relief Act would provide $250 billion in direct funding to all local governments on a per capita basis, allowing them to use those dollars to offset a loss in revenue due to the pandemic, according to the county’s letter.
“It is critically important that in any future negotiations, you please support ensuring that all local governments get some funding, including smaller counties like ours, and that minimum thresholds or funding formulas like (Community Development Block Grant), which leave us to rely on the state for a potential allocation are not used,” the county’s letter states.
District 3 Supervisor Chris Howard, who proposed drafting and sending the letter to Pelosi and Schumer, said the California State Association of Counties, Rural Counties Representatives of California and the League of California cities have been lobbying for the issue in both the House and Senate.
“A lot of COVID relief packages come directly to businesses, which are in dire need of funding, but counties are also suffering,” he said. “It is our intent to push both the Senate and the (House) to move forward with direct funding to counties where the state wouldn’t have administrative oversight. Our hope is to lobby for about $1.1 billion that would come into the state to help backfill the county coffers at this point.”
Del Norte County has been working with its federal lobbyist to advocate for direct stimulus dollars to come directly to governments whose population is less than 500,000, said County Administrative Officer Jay Sarina. Del Norte County, along with larger governments, is experience a loss of revenue, which is going to reflect in the budget, Sarina said.
Sarina also spoke of a bipartisan effort to craft legislation that will assist local governments trying to balance their budgets.
Gitlin said instead of sending a letter to Schumer, the Board of Supervisors should write to Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. He said the decision to send letters to U.S. lawmakers was premature, referring to HR 6467 as an empty bill with no specifics.
“Though I certainly do not want to see our county enter into the area of layoffs and cut back of services, I’m troubled by this motion in how it impacts our county and our state and the rest of the country,” Gitlin said. “Borrowed capital is and should be our last resort. There are interventions, which we as a county can certainly engage in before we move to the bail out process and that’s apparently what this is.”
County supervisors also unanimously approved a letter to Secretary Wade Crowfoot, of the Natural Resources Agency of California, advocating for allowing Del Norte residents vehicular access to State Parks units in the county.
The letter also touches on permanent gates erected after California State Parks closed all 280 units to vehicles, boats and off-highway vehicles on March 29.
District 5 Supervisor Bob Berkowitz had proposed sending letters to small rural counties to urge California Governor Gavin Newsom to reopen safely. But, bringing up the governor’s plans for easing stay-at-home restrictions as early as Friday, Berkowitz asked the item to be pulled from the agenda.