Dear California City Leaders,
Health officials across the country have warned that the coming days are going to be the hardest and most devastating to date of the coronavirus pandemic. Cases have been confirmed in 53 of 58 California counties. As of April 7, the California Department of Public Health has confirmed 15,865 cases and 374 deaths in the state. By the end of the week, there will be many more.
While the numbers are certainly grim, there is also a glimmer of hope for California. As Governor Newsom announced yesterday, California’s efforts against COVID-19 are slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus. Experts attribute the apparent “flattening of the curve” to the early directives to curb social interaction and the public’s following of those directives. The earliest directives came from local leaders. As a result of those actions, lives are being saved in real time.
I commend you all for your commitment and leadership as you continue to protect your cities while continuing to provide essential services for your residents.
The tremendous health and financial impacts from the pandemic are and will continue to be painful for weeks, and months to come. Here at the League, our focus is on getting cities of all sizes the resources needed to ensure the health and safety of our communities and to navigate these uncharted waters. The League also continues to curate timely resources for cities on our COVID-19 resource webpage
and has launched a COVID-19 webinar series to provide additional information on strategies for maintaining continuity of city operations during this unprecedented period. More information on all of these efforts is included below.
League calls on state and federal governments for fiscal assistance to cities.
To address the necessary increases in spending and unavoidable revenue shortfalls faced by nearly all California local governments, the League is joining with the National League of Cities and our federal representatives to call on Congress to advance a fourth emergency appropriations package with direct aid available to all cities in need, regardless of population. This follows the $2 trillion CARES Act, passed last month, which provides financial assistance to individuals and small businesses on the economic margins, as well as $150 billion in direct aid to state and local governments (with populations greater than 500,000) to help offset the new costs directly related to the pandemic.
To help California small businesses weather the storm, last week, the Governor announced that the state will allow small businesses to defer payment of sales and use taxes of up to $50,000, a primary source of funding for California local governments, for 12 months. While we understand the need to support our Main Street businesses, these deferrals will have a devastating impact on local budgets. The current crisis has led to an increase in spending, along with revenue shortfalls, especially in sales taxes. We are calling on the state Legislature and the Governor to support a similar package of relief as the federal one at the state level.
COVID-19 Webinar Series.
To assist city officials with their response to the pandemic, the League developed a COVID-19 Webinar Series. The first two installments of the series have featured a special update on the CARES Act from the National League of Cities
and covered best practices for suspending parking requirements. The next webinar is tomorrow, and will discuss the impact of emergency orders and declarations, preemption of local declarations under State and count orders, and next steps after declaring an emergency. To register for the event, visit the League’s website
County officials to waive penalties on a case-by-case basis for property owners unable to pay by the April 10 property tax deadline.
One of the League’s primary advocacy efforts during COVID-19 has been focused on maintaining essential municipal services and infrastructure during this crisis, which is why we urged the Governor to retain the April 10 deadline for property tax payments
and support local officials waiving penalties for property owners who are unable to pay by that date due to the pandemic, as authorized by law. On April 4, the Governor announced his support
for the decision made by county officials to waive penalties on a case-by-case basis.
I remain in awe of the leadership shown by our city leaders. Our residents, and state and federal governments are looking to cities small and large to lead during this crisis, and cities are rising to the occasion.
Thank you for your leadership. Please stay safe and healthy.
Carolyn M. Coleman
League of California Cities