Legislative Analyst’s Office Shines Light on Special Districts’ Exclusion from COVID Relief

By Kyle Packham posted 05-05-2021 11:33 AM


California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office has published a Fiscal Perspectives commentary, “A Framework for Allocating Federal Recovery Funds,” which states, “…certain local governments—specifically special districts—did not receive any direct assistance. We recommend considering whether these individuals and entities that have been impacted by the pandemic, but not included in recent federal assistance, would benefit from assistance using the state’s fiscal relief funds.”


Congress and the California Special Districts Association (CSDA) say the answer is emphatically “yes,” which is why, as the Little Hoover Commission highlighted yesterday, the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) specifically authorizes states to use ARP funds to provide relief to special districts.

Special districts’ provide critical fire prevention, emergency response, water, electricity, parks and recreation, public health, and other services to California’s local communities. Just like cities and counties, these units of local government have been hit hard by COVID impacts, however, special districts are unique in that they received no direct access to COVID-19 relief funding programs. 

The need is very real.  Special districts have had to step up to the demands of COVID response and government mandates in every area. As a result of unforeseen expenses, overtime costs, and other impacts special districts have been left facing a projected $2.4 billion unmet fiscal need. Importantly, this need can be met without taking away support for other forms of local government.


Without relief, local service providers are facing the specter of layoffs (more than 120,000 Californians are employed by special districts), fewer services, and reverberating impacts on everything from fire prevention and suppression to the delivery of vital water and electricity services, water and resource conservation, accessibility to healthcare and parks, and the list goes on.


See the Coalition Letter requesting the State of California share a portion of the $26 billion it will receive from the ARPA and an updated list of over 700 organizations and individuals signing on to that letter. Special districts and other stakeholders can still join the coalition and special districts are encouraged to email their legislators and stakeholders requesting support.

Governor Gavin Newsom is scheduled to unveil his May Revise to the State Budget the week of May 10.  CSDA's lobbyists will provide a full update on the state of play regarding COVID-19 relief funding and other major issues facing special districts at the 2021 Virtual Special Districts Legislative Days May 18-19.