Sacramento, CA. – In advance of this week’s release of the May Revise to the State Budget, forty-six State Legislators have signed a joint letter to Governor Gavin Newsom requesting relief for the state’s vital fire protection, healthcare, utility, and other special districts that, unlike other areas of local government, have been uniquely excluded from access to COVID relief funding.
In so doing, these lawmakers join the California Special Districts Association (CSDA) and more than 700 individuals and organizations urging relief for special districts and, in tandem, the communities they support.
“Statewide, special districts have stepped up to respond to COVID and their frontline workers have battled to do more with less,” stated Neil McCormick, Chief Executive Officer of CSDA. “Without access to relief funding, these local agencies have been forced to reduce their workforce and cancel infrastructure projects, yet they’ve found a way to get the job done today—access to relief will help them confront the challenges we know are facing our communities tomorrow.”
Through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP), Congress has explicitly empowered states to transfer Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery monies to special districts. Between the Coronavirus State and Local Recovery Fund within the ARP and last year’s Coronavirus Relief Fund, Congress has approved a projected $57.9 billion in relief funds to aid California and its local governments. Of these funds, the State will have received a total $36.14 billion in discretionary dollars to address COVID-19 impacts – with the rest going directly to cities and counties. That’s in addition to California’s projections of up to a $20 billion windfall in unanticipated one-time revenues.
Last week, the Legislative Analysts Office released a Framework for Allocating Federal Recovery Funds, that stated in part, “…Certain local governments—specifically special districts—did not receive any direct assistance. We recommend considering whether these individuals and entities that have been impacted by the pandemic, but not included in recent federal assistance, would benefit from assistance using the state’s fiscal relief funds.”
Additionally, California’s Little Hoover Commission released an Issue Brief this week entitled, California’s Use of Federal Pandemic Aid, which stated in part, “Special Districts play an important role in California’s governance, providing services to many residents. California has more than 2,000 special districts, providing services such as water service, sewer service, parks, or fire protection… The American Rescue Plan, by contrast, explicitly allows for transfer of State Fiscal Recovery Fund revenue to Special Districts.”
“California’s special districts provide essential services to their local communities and maintain a large portion of the state’s critical infrastructure, including fire protection and emergency response, healthcare, water and wastewater, electricity, ports and harbors, transportation, resource and agricultural conservation, parks, libraries, cemeteries, mosquito abatement, and air quality management,” McCormick said. “Just like other essential service providers, they’ve been hit hard by COVID impacts, and now face a projected $2.4 billion unmet fiscal need.”
More than 120,000 Californians are employed by special districts. McCormick adds that, without relief, special districts will face the specter of layoffs, fewer services for communities, and reverberating impacts on everything from fire prevention and suppression to the delivery of vital water and electricity services, water and resource conservation—all as California plunges headlong into the third driest year on record, which could result in severe drought and a potentially catastrophic wildfire season.
More information is available at: https://www.csda.net/advocate/take-action/covid.
About CSDA: The California Special Districts Association is a 501c(6), not-for-profit association representing more than 1000 independent special districts that provide irrigation, water, park and recreation, cemetery, fire, police protection, library, utility, harbor, healthcare, and community services throughout California