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COVID-19

Government Agencies On Central, South Coasts Face Both Coronavirus Health And Financial Challenges

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Coronavirus has created massive health issues on the Central and South Coasts.  It’s causing huge financial concerns, with businesses closed, and tens of thousands of people out of work. 

And, while the region’s government agencies are focused on keeping people safe, it’s also creating major financial issues for them as well.

County and cities governments in the region are pulling out all the stops to deal with the crisis.  But, with people out of work, huge drops in sales tax, and unexpected bills for everything from masks to overtime, agencies like the City of Santa Maria will have to do some scrambling to come up with balanced budgets.

The city is reporting that it appears it will ended up with an unexpected $3 million dollar shortfall between now, and the end of June.

Mark Van De Kamp is with the City of Santa Maria.  He says nearly half of the city’s budget comes from sales tax revenue, and a supplemental sales tax approved by voters.

The state announced this month that it would allow small businesses to defer their sales tax payments to the government, to help them keep their doors open, and people employed.  Van De Kamp says it’s important to help businesses, but it’s also putting local governments in a tough situation.

Santa Maria has already furloughed nearly 100 part time workers, and imposed a hiring freeze.

Ventura County leaders are also watching the situation closely.  Ventura County CEO Mike Powers says short term, the county will be okay financially, because it has reserves specifically for disasters.

But, Powers says there are a lot of unknowns with the county’s long-term financial situation.  It’s hoped the federal government will step in with relief, as it did during the Thomas and Woolsey wildfires.  But, federal aid could be more difficult in this situation, because instead of being a local or regional disaster, it’s a national one.

There’s no question that the immediate issue for local government agencies is doing what needs to be done to get people through the crisis safely.  But, officials say they have to look at the long term financial fallout, especially at a time when they would normally be finalizing budgets for the new fiscal year.  The problem is that mid-stream in the crisis, it’s hard to deal with what in effect is a moving target.

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