REGION — Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, billions of dollars are being funneled to jurisdictions throughout the country to help them cope with the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the vast majority of cities are ineligible for such assistance, as the established Coronavirus Relief Fund is specifically reserved for jurisdictions with populations of over 500,000. San Diego is the only city in the county that stands to receive federal funding due to this limitation.
Now North County cities are speaking out for a lower threshold — particularly as many anticipate a significant decline in revenue for this fiscal year and the year to come.
On May 7, U.S. Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) and nine mayors from Del Mar to San Juan Capistrano announced their call for direct federal funding for smaller jurisdictions.
“While the CARES Act included funding for states and large cities, it wasn’t enough, and it’s time for House and Senate leadership to rectify that,” Levin said in a press release. “The next Coronavirus relief package that Congress passes must provide more money to cities, and it must set aside funding for cities with fewer than 500,000 residents.”
Jurisdictions pitching into the call include Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad, Oceanside, Vista, San Clemente, Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano.
In a letter addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in late March, Levin said the impact to such small and medium-sized cities is “immediate and stark.”
“Key revenue sources such as sales tax and transit occupancy tax have been dramatically reduced as consumer and visitor-serving activity has come to a standstill,” he wrote.
This reality is particularly true for coastal cities like Del Mar that typically see a significant uptick in revenue during the summer, beachgoing months.
Del Mar is anticipating a $2,300,000 revenue loss between March and June alone — in large part due to hotels being shut down and sales tax revenue plummeting. The city usually sees a significant spike in sales tax revenue in June due to the San Diego County Fair — which has been canceled this year.
Del Mar is taking steps to ease their losses, cutting expenditures by nearly $2 million for this fiscal year. But Mayor Ellie Haviland hopes the city will receive some extra assistance to deal with what lies ahead.
“Cities provide essential services that are really important, not only to public health and public safety, but also to the economic engine we’re going to need to get started here,” said Haviland.
And Del Mar is certainly not alone in its struggles — Encinitas is projecting a loss of over $6 million in the current and coming fiscal year, and Oceanside is looking at a $8.5 million reduction in revenue for the fiscal year to come. At an April 14 City Council meeting, Carlsbad anticipated a loss in sales tax revenue of $3.2 million for April alone.
Solana Beach staff have projected a loss of over $1 million over this fiscal year and the next. In an email to The Coast News, Solana Beach Mayor Jewel Edson noted that smaller cities also “need and deserve a fair share of the federal aid.”
“We must continue to care for our populations and provide services for our residents in an environment of ever-increasing costs and declining revenues,” she said.