Last week, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D- California) introduced the Coronavirus Community Relief Act (Act) in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Act, which RCRC strongly supports, would provide $250 billion in stabilization funds directly to counties and cities with a population of 500,000 or less that are struggling amidst the pandemic.

Most states, including California, mandate the implementation of public health and emergency response responsibilities to the county governments. While the recently-enacted Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides direct monies to counties (and cities within) with populations in excess of 500,000, smaller counties are required to obtain allocations through the state. To date, RCRC has received nearly a dozen letters from member counties that provide first-hand accounts of the resulting hardship and fiscal strain this has caused for low-population counties.

RCRC expressed appreciation to Senator Feinstein in a letter, for addressing what RCRC believes is an oversight in the CARES Act and for promoting relief funds to rural counties. RCRC further requested that any future legislation enacted in the coming weeks recognize that counties’ front-line activities are greatly impacted by the pandemic; thus, the overwhelming share of any subsequent low-population funding should be forwarded directly to counties.

Senator Feinstein’s bill is the latest in a series of actions taken by members of Congress to address the need for direct federal stabilization funds to local governments during the outbreak, and for the recovery that must follow. A week prior, Representative Joe Neguse (D-Colorado) introduced a similar effort, H.R. 6467, the “Coronavirus Community Relief Act,” which was strongly supported by RCRC. Earlier this month, RCRC urged direct stabilization funding in a letter to U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco).

RCRC continues to closely monitor and advocate for legislation to provide direct federal funding to California’s rural counties as they face the challenges of this pandemic. At the time of this writing, a second round of federal aid has been adopted by the U.S. Senate and is expected to pass the House of Representatives in the coming days; however, the focus of this effort is to further capitalize a small business loan/assistance program as well as assist hospitals with their funding needs. As such, a second round of direct federal aid to state and local governments is NOT contained in the new package.