Special districts throughout California are still ineligible for federal assistance, as the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis continue, but federal legislation to fix that was recently reintroduced in Congress.
Rep. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) reintroduced House Resolution 7073
—the Special Districts Provide Essential Services Act—which U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) is an original cosponsor of.
The legislation proposes to make special districts eligible for payments from the Coronavirus Relief Fund if more than $150 billion is appropriated to the fund.
RELIEF Local special districts, like the Los Osos CSD (wastewater facility pictured), are once again sending letters in support of legislation that would enable them to receive federal COVID-19 relief.
Special districts are currently ineligible for relief funds
because the U.S. Department of Treasury doesn’t consider it to be a local unit of government under the CARES Act for the Coronavirus Relief Fund.
Charlotte Holifield, coastal network affairs field coordinator for the California Special Districts Association, said the National Special Districts Coalition completed a survey of special districts throughout the country on Feb. 5, 2021, to gauge updated impacts on special districts.
“A key takeaway is that only 11 percent of special districts have received any form of federal, state, or local COVID-19 relief to date, even as cities, counties, businesses, and nonprofits have received billions of dollars,” Holifield said.
To date, the cumulative impact to special districts is $1.92 billion. The lack of financial support has caused 42 percent of special districts to reduce their essential services and 33 percent to reduce their workforce.
Last July, the Templeton, Cambria, and Los Osos CSDs, the Cambria Community Healthcare District, the Coastal San Luis Resource Conservation District, and Upper Salinas-Las Tables Resource Conservation District all sent letters to Congress supporting the original legislation.
The Los Osos CSD submitted their letter of support again and the Templeton CSD is slated to approve their letter at its Feb. 16 district board meeting.
Templeton CSD’s Parks and Recreation Department has suffered during the pandemic, as the district furloughed the department’s staff and has only been able to bring back one person at full-time capacity.
Parks and recreation programs were canceled last year and as of 2021, it had to cancel two more programs, costing the department $90,460 in revenue. The department has also lost approximately $80,000 from canceled fundraising events and lost rent at its community facility.
While the district has taken steps to save the department, it anticipates additional loss of revenue if California does not reach the orange tier by the end of the summer.
“Our employees are on the frontlines, yet our local government agency has yet to receive the direct access to funding that other government agencies, as well as businesses, and nonprofits have received,” the district’s letter read. Δ