Dear California City Leaders,
It’s been 69 days since Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered Californians, except for essential workers, to stay-at-home to control the community spread of COVID-19. Businesses, schools, places of worship, retailers, the League, parks, and many activities that are central to our quality of life closed their doors. Many of us, the League included, began doing business and delivering services in a teleworking environment. “Zoom,” which meant to most of us to “move or travel very quickly,” became the technology we use to connect virtually with colleagues, citizens, legislators, board members and loved ones. These actions have saved lives and served as a model for the country.
Now, as we head into June, the country is reopening with all 50 states moving forward. In California, 45 of the 58 counties have received state approval to move forward with accelerated reopening plans. Together, we are flattening the curve, expanding testing, and carefully reopening businesses with modifications to keep our communities safe and prevent another surge. However, we must continue to take this pandemic seriously by adhering to federal, state and local public health guidelines.
As cities have spent what it takes to address the pandemic and save lives, we must also begin to confront the reality of the significant costs local governments have incurred. Due to the unprecedented, multi-faceted response required by COVID-19, including the shutdown of our local economies, our cities are facing a $7 billion revenue shortfall over the next two years at the same time they are facing significant unplanned expenses. The shortfall will grow by the billions as modified stay-at-home orders extend into the summer months and beyond.
These devastating budget shortfalls will impact residents, businesses and city workers across the state and jeopardize our economic recovery. According to the League’s analysis, nine out of 10 California cities report they are considering cutting or furloughing city staff or reducing public services. Eight out of 10 say their police and public works services will be adversely affected and more than half anticipate cuts to fire services.
Our cities are the economic engines of our state, and we are calling on the state and federal government to be as strong a partner in recovery as they have been to cities in fighting this pandemic. I am grateful to the more than 240 businesses, local governments, individuals and labor organizations who have joined the League’s Support Local Recovery
coalition and are calling on the state and federal government to provide direct and flexible assistance to California cities.
There’s still time for you to take action. I’m counting on you to make sure the voices of local leaders are heard in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. Strong cities and vibrant economies are depending on it.
Carolyn M. Coleman
League of California Cities