Calling for Federal Stimulus to Support in Our Recovery
January 27, 2021 2:43 PM
by Stephanie Venegas
Earlier this month, then President-elect Joe Biden unveiled his $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan”, an ambitious legislative package that would fund COVID-19 vaccinations, provide direct federal relief to families, and support struggling communities across the US. The plan includes $350 billion in emergency funding for state and local governments to keep essential frontline workers employed, facilitate continued testing and vaccine distribution, reopen schools, and to aid in our collective economic recovery. Since the plan’s release, the City has advocated to our federal representatives in Congress and the White House to ensure that the unique needs of smaller cities such as Santa Monica are not left out of the formula that will eventually determine how much aid is delivered to states and local municipalities like ours.
Up until now, Santa Monica has received limited federal support during the COVID-19 pandemic, totaling just $1.4 million. For context, at the start of the pandemic, we projected a $224 million deficit and have had to undergo major restructuring of our budget and city organization to account for this shortfall. The reason we’ve been left out of meaningful aid is because the formulas that determine stimulus allocations have left cities with populations under 500,000 out of the running for direct aid. We have instead had to receive funds allocated to the state and passed through in a population-based formula.
We’re calling on our representatives in Congress to push for a smart and equitable allocation for this round of stimulus funding and to advocate for an allocation mechanism that focuses on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, not just population size. This means that case counts, positivity rates, hospitalizations, and budget impacts should be part of the equation to determine COVID-19's impact on the community and to match funds appropriately.
Our general fund is heavily dependent on our tourism-based economy, which supports our broader region, and the impacts of our revenue loss have been devastating. As a key tourism destination in the Los Angeles area, our recovery supports workers and industries far beyond our city limits and well beyond our population size. We must renew and recover to welcome local, regional, national, and ultimately international visitors once again, as well as to support our region’s thriving hospitality, tech, and other industries.
As the American Rescue Plan makes its way through Congress, we are hopeful that smaller cities like Santa Monica that are fighting every day to provide essential services, rental relief, food assistance, small business loans, and lift up a strong recovery effort are at the heart of discussions around stimulus allocation.