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Dianne Feinstein, Senator
2500 Tulare Street, Suite 4290
Fresno, CA 93721
Kamala Harris, Senator
501 I Street, Suite 7-600
Sacramento, CA 95814
Tom McClintock, Congressman
2000A Douglas Blvd., Suite 240
Roseville, CA 95661
Re: COVID19 - Support of Allocating Resources directly to Counties
Dear Members of the California Congressional Delegation,
On behalf of all residents in Tuolumne County, we would like to thank you for your leadership on obtaining critical COVID-19 aid. California’s counties were the first to react and respond to COVID-19 and our efforts have been successful in "flattening the curve" to reduce the number of positive cases and deaths in the state. While the COVID-19 aid packages have brought a measure of relief to States, small businesses, and some local governments, California’s counties are facing unprecedented demands on public health and critical safety net services at the same time that our ability to fund them is rapidly deteriorating.
To help us alleviate the twin pressures of COVID-19 expenses and lost revenues, we strongly and respectfully urge Congress to allocate resources directly to counties.
* $1.1 billion in residual CARES Act funds based on direct service responsibilities (80% to counties with less than 500,000 population);
* State to cover deferred revenue caused by the Sales Tax Layaway Program;
* Immediate authority to waive property tax delinquencies caused by COVID-19;
* Protections and mitigations for 1991 and 2011 Realignment programs and funding;
* Assistance to counties with cash flow solutions to address short term needs.
Fewer than one-third of California’s counties received funding under the CARES Act via the Coronavirus Relief Fund, yet every California County is on the front line of responding to the COVID-19 crisis and needs immediate, flexible, and direct relief for both expenses and lost revenues. This is certainly true for Tuolumne County. While we are grateful for the relatively low health impact of COVID-19 on our community, the economic impact has been devastating on our economy that has a high emphasis on tourism and over 70% of the County consisting of Federal lands that do not bring in tax revenues.
Federal funding is urgently needed to ensure County public health departments can adequately monitor COVID-19 as California reopens. We need funding for the frontline workers, for protect public safety (Law Enforcement and Fire Services) and health, social workers securing the hotel rooms for those experiencing homelessness, and behavioral health staff to respond to and help all constituents in need. Reserves are being exhausted as we protect our residents, and we must make budget decisions in the next 30 days that will impact the services we provide to those most in need.
In a public meeting on April 23, the County Administrative Officer and the Auditor-Controller projected to the Board of Supervisors that the County may have to utilize up to 50% of its reserves to finish out the year due to lost tax revenues. This projection includes salary savings due to furloughs of library and recreation staff and does not include any possible diminishing of fee revenue for services provided.
Furthermore, staff is projecting a shortfall of up to $7 million dollars in FY 20/21. This is almost 10 percent of the General Fund budget. In short, this lost revenue is crippling for Tuolumne County.
California’s counties will be absolutely critical in kick-starting the economy. California won’t be able to recover without additional direct funding. If Tuolumne County’s public health department lacks funding to access testing or coordinate trained workers it will be nearly impossible to meet key testing metrics to reopen California, much less track and isolate cases as restrictions are lifted. The direct funding is just as necessary for the much-needed social services we provide to protect our at-risk elderly, youth, and disabled populations, in addition to those experiencing homelessness. Direct aid to counties is an investment in restarting the economy. Federal dollars will be spent locally, aiding small businesses, retailers, and residents right here in Tuolumne County.
Again, we are thankful for your incredible leadership and focus on the overwhelming needs and challenges facing state and local governments. We are committed to a solution that helps our nation, our state and Tuolumne County mitigate, respond and recover from these historic times. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue further with your team.
Sherri Brennan, Chair
Office of Emergency Services-Director
cc: California State Association of Counties (CSAC)
Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC)
National Association of Counties (NACO)