Mar. 1—The U.S. House of Representatives passed President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion relief bill early Saturday morning, a proposal that includes hundreds of billions of dollars for states, counties, cities and other municipalities to help with the ongoing costs accrued due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The American Rescue Plan still has to pass the Senate before it can be officially approved — and could see further changes in the days ahead — but the current plan includes a Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds proposal that has an estimated breakdown of what local counties and cities stand to receive in financial assistance.
According to the latest estimates for the proposal, Sutter County would be allocated $19 million, Yuba County would receive $15 million, and Colusa County would see $4 million in direct federal relief. Yuba City is estimated to receive $17 million, Marysville would receive $2.4 million, Live Oak would receive $1.7 million, Wheatland would receive $730,000, and Colusa would receive $1.1 million in direct federal relief.
"The legislation is extraordinarily important, really for all of America, but particularly California," said Congressman John Garamendi. "The infections in California are the most serious in any state, and we have an incredible need to crush the virus. There's significant money in here for vaccinations, testing, for reopening schools, which is very important. There's also money in there to support local governments and state governments, transportation systems of all kinds; significant funding for unemployment insurance for small businesses and to help agriculture vaccinate their workers. So, all in all, it's a very good piece of legislation all the way around."
According to Garamendi's office, the latest estimates show Yuba County schools would receive a total of approximately $39 million, Sutter County schools would receive a total of approximately $37 million, and Colusa County schools would receive a total of approximately $6.2 million — federal funding meant to support remote learning, help K-12 programs safely reopen, and address lost time in the classroom.
The current proposal would also see Yuba City receive approximately $1.6 million for public transportation purposes.
The allocated federal funds could be used to help counties and cities respond to or mitigate the public health emergency and its negative economic impacts; cover costs incurred as a result of the pandemic; replace revenue that was lost, delayed or decreased as a result of the public health emergency; or address negative economic impacts of the disease.
Yuba County media and community relations coordinator Russ Brown said county officials have been keeping tabs on the proposal for the past few weeks, though it isn't entirely clear which local programs may be the focus of the legislation.
"For Yuba County and just about every other county across the country, Health and Human Services had to undergo considerable retooling, in order to dedicate necessary resources to the COVID-19 response," Brown said. "As the vaccines roll out further, there will certainly come a point when we will see a reset of all programs, to ensure a well-rounded approach to the community's health."
Sutter County Administrator Steve Smith said the allocated funds outlined in the proposed bill could allow the county to bring on some additional, limited-term staff to help with the workload of Health and Human Services, which has been hit hard by the ongoing pandemic. There have also been other unanticipated pandemic-related costs, like a recent outbreak of the virus in the jail, which requires extensive testing weekly.
As for replacing lost revenues, Smith said the county has seen decreases in its sales tax-driven funding, which includes Prop 172 exclusively for law enforcement.
"The services we deliver are directly impacted by the financial resources available to support them, so the additional funding would be vital in maintaining current levels," Smith said. "That said, it would not be prudent for us to count on this funding as we develop the FY 2021-22 budget. There is still a lot of negotiation that will take place before funds reach the county treasury. The board will decide how best to use those funds when, and if, we receive them."
Other notable aspects of the American Rescue Plan include a provision to raise the federal minimum wage, another round of direct stimulus checks for some Americans, expanded unemployment insurance, and money for vaccine distribution.
Garamendi said the Senate could take up the proposal as early as midweek next week, though scheduling is subject to change.