League of California Cities to Feds on COVID-19 funding - As stimulus bill stalls, we need your direct help now

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In a Zoom news conference held this afternoon, the League of California Cities had an urgent message for President Donald Trump and the members of Congress - cities, especially smaller ones, need direct help now.

The press conference was held following stalled talks over a second COVID-19 stimulus bill between President Donald Trump, the Republican-led Senate and the Democratic majority House of Representatives. As highlighted through the call, many smaller-sized cities that did not get direct aid during the first COVID-19 stimulus bill are financially suffering from the effects of decreased tax revenues as they attempt to maintain constituent services.

Among the speakers was the League's President, Yountville Mayor John Dunbar. As the mayor of the Napa County town that relies heavily on tourism, Dunbar stressed Yountville was hard hit following the COVID19 pandemic.

"Approximately 75-percent of our general revenues disappeared almost overnight when the state orders shut down our hotels, restaurant, retail, and other business activity," Dunbar said. "Despite the severe losses to our town budget, we allowed our shuttered hotel operators to defer hotel tax payments because of the closures."

Saying the country was in a crisis, Dunbar said stressed the need for national leaders to reengage in negotiations to help cities of all sizes with direct relief. 

"We urge member [Rep.] LaMalfa (R-Richvale) to stand-up for recovery for not only in his region but all over California," Dunbar said. "By supporting a return to negotiations including $500 billion in direct flexible funding to local governments in this next Coronavirus relief package."

While the CARES act provided direct relief for larger cities, in California, only six of 482, those 500,000 or more in population received direct aid. Smaller cities received funding that was funneled through the state government.

Also speaking during the meeting was the league's executive director Caroline Coleman who said the revenue declines are affecting nearly every California city. Coleman said the downturn is "blowing a hole" through city budgets. 

"In a recent survey, nine out of ten cities say they will have to cut staff or decrease city services to residents, and nearly three in four report they will have to do both without additional resources," Coleman said. "That means fewer first responders, that means reduced frequency of garbage pick-ups, delayed repairs to our streets and sidewalks, delayed inspections and permitting, and limited hours for parks and senior centers."

Other speakers during the meeting urging direct aid were Grass Valley City Councilmember Jan Arbuckle, Yreka Mayor Joan Smith Freeman, and 10th District Vice President Frank Lima of the International Association of Fire Fighters. All reiterated that funding must come directly to municipalities instead of being funneled through the state government.  

Although LaMalfa was specially mentioned five times during the call, the participants said all members of the California Congressional delegations would be lobbied. They also said it is a bi-partisan effort to help municipalities. 

"We are reaching out to any and all congressmen, senators, anybody who will listen in the federal government because we the cities are suffering, and we need to have the funding directly to us," Arbuckle noted. 

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