In the wake of California’s recent allocation of $500 million of federal CARES Act funds to cities to address impacts from COVID-19, the City of Palm Springs recently sent a plea to several state officials, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, Assemblyman Chad Mayes, State Sen. Melissa Melendez and U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz, requesting that more funds be distributed for financially struggling cities like Palm Springs, which have populations of less than 300,000.
The letter addresses inequities with how California is distributing CARES Act funds to California cities — and points out that the largest 13 cities are receiving between $85 and $174 per resident while cities like Palm Springs are receiving just $12.28 per resident.
For example, the City of Riverside has approximately seven times more full-time residents than Palm Springs, yet Riverside received 50 times more funding, ($600,000 vs. $28,000,000). In fact, the City of Riverside comprises only 16% of the population of Riverside County, yet received 57% of the funding for all cities in the County. Indeed, the combined nine Coachella Valley cities have 20% more residents than the City of Riverside, yet Riverside received six times more funding from the State than our nine cities combined.
The letter goes on to point out that COVID-19 related financial relief to cities should be based on loss of revenue due to COVID-19, not just on population. In addition, the letter notes that the sharp decline of tourism, the lifeblood of the Coachella Valley economy, has led to the adoption of the City’s 2020-21 budget that resulted in significant layoffs, position freezes, and transfers from reserve funds, to address a devastating $47 million shortfall. This is on top of a budget shortfall for the 2019- 20 fiscal year, in the amount of over $29 million – all resulting from COVID-19. It is also noted that Palm Springs’ projected loss of $47 million for the 2020-21 fiscal year is close to double that of Riverside at $28 million. Yet Riverside is receiving $28 million and Palm Springs is receiving only $600,000.
“COVID-19 has led to significant loss of revenue for our city and severely affected core public safety and other important services our residents and visitors in Palm Springs depend upon,” said Councilmember Lisa Middleton, who along with Mayor Geoff Kors, serves as City Council Budget liaisons. “Distribution by population alone, without reference to revenue lost due to COVID-19, is simply not fair. Treating people unequally, even when based on population, because of where they live — is to double down on the unfairness.”
“This dramatic loss of revenue means smaller cities like Palm Springs are unable to backfill their services and provide critical support for businesses and residents, including rent relief, provision of PPE, enforcement of state orders and other much needed assistance. Distribution of funds to local municipalities in this manner is unjust and poorly thought out and we respectfully request that our state and federal governments listen to our plea and take action to ensure a more equitable resolution to this appalling situation.”
Kors added, “To say to the public that Palm Springs residents, and residents of the more than 400 smaller cities representing 72% of California’s population, are only worth $12 per resident while residents of the largest cities are worth between $85 to $174 is outrageous and deeply offensive.”