Special districts provide water, wastewater, fire protection, health care, parks and recreation, and more to about 2,000 California communities, but they have been left out of federal relief since the onset of the pandemic.
“As a result, 42 percent of special districts have had to scale back the essential services they provide and 1 out of 3 special districts have reduced their frontline workforce,” U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) said in a press release.
The state’s special districts anticipate a collective $2.4 billion in economic impacts. Charlotte Holifield, public affairs field coordinator for the California Special Districts Association, said that without relief, special districts, which employ more than 120,000 people, are facing layoffs, fewer services, and impacts on quality of service.
In a May 12 letter, Carbajal and other state representatives urged California leaders, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and State Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, to ensure that special districts statewide can access COVID-19 relief funding under the American Rescue Plan.
The American Rescue Plan, passed by Congress and signed into law this spring, explicitly provides states with the authority to open a portion of the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund money to special districts. California will receive $27 billion under the program.
“When special districts are excluded from relief, essential frontline workers and community residents are excluded from relief. The American Rescue Plan gave states the authority to direct a portion of COVID-19 relief dollars to special districts, and I encourage our state to lead by example by ensuring special districts have the same level of access to fiscal relief as their local government counterparts,” Carbajal said in the release. ∆