California’s Budget Offers Carrots — and Big Sticks — for Local Govs

Cities and counties must abide by state rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or they risk losing up to $2.5 billion from the coming $202.1-billion state budget. That means complying with all executive orders and California Department of Public Health guidances.

Local governments’ performance will be checked. Before receiving funds for pandemic assistance from the State Controller, they will have to prove their compliance to the Department of Finance.

“There are some that have made rhetorical comments about not giving a damn,” Governor Gavin Newsom said last week (County News covered some of them here). “That’s exactly why I look forward to signing this budget that will afford me a little bit of leverage in that conversation.”

Under the budget expected to be signed by Newsom this week, cities will receive $500 million and counties will receive almost $1.3 billion toward public safety services, homelessness, and public health. Cities are also to receive $550 million in federal funding for Project Roomkey, the project that put homeless individuals up in hotel rooms during the pandemic.

“Counties’ role in the COVID-19 pandemic is to act in partnership with state government. Counties truly appreciate Governor Gavin Newsom and the Legislative Leadership for this significant reimbursement of funds to partially cover COVID-19 costs including public health and emergency response,” said California Association of Counties’ Executive Director Graham Knaus in a statement. “The 2020-2021 State Budget acknowledges the tireless, important work that California’s Counties handle day in and day out as THE local public health and emergency response authorities.”

Overall, the budget cuts $13 billion from the previous year. But it avoids some of the more draconian reductions for schools, health, and local governments that were initially expected.

Read more about the spending plan here.


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