Congressman Panetta Leads Bipartisan Effort to Ensure COVID-19 Relief Funding for Small and Midsize Counties

May 5, 2020
Press Release

SALINAS, CA – Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel Valley) sent a bipartisan letter to House and Senate leaders addressing the lack of COVID-19 relief funding for small and midsize counties. Other signers of the letter include Representatives Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley), Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara), Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale), Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael).


The letter requests that Congressional leaders include counties with populations of less than 500,000 people in future aid funding. Previous legislation only provided direct assistance to municipalities with populations above that threshold, leaving out Monterey, San Benito, and approximately 40 other counties in California alone. The letter also requests flexibility for this funding to replace losses, as many localities are experiencing losses in tax revenue.


The full text of the letter can be found below and here.


Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Majority Leader McConnell, and Minority Leader Schumer, 


We appreciate your leadership and your bipartisan work to pass the CARES Act, which provided much-needed aid to support necessary expenditures incurred during the COVID-19 outbreak. As part of that aid, funds were allocated directly to state and local governments to assist with their immediate response to COVID-19. This critical funding helped states and some local governments fund relief efforts and provided vital lifelines to our communities. Unfortunately, the legislation failed to provide funding for counties with populations under 500,000, hampering their ability to provide front-line defense for over half of all Americans. 


For example, in California, only 16 of its 58 counties received federal funding to assist with the increased costs associated with our coronavirus response. Some California counties fell just short of the 500,000 threshold, with counties containing over 499,000 individuals missing out on critical funding. Just like larger counties, our small and midsize counties are managing the impacts and enormous costs involved in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, while at the same time experiencing significant losses in revenue.


Counties large and small provide critical services to our constituents during this public health emergency. All county governments deserve some level of assistance to prevent suspension of critical services and programs and thereby prevent additional deaths.


As Congress considers additional COVID-19 related funding, we ask that any additional aid to state and local governments include flexible funding specifically targeted to counties that fall below the 500,000 population threshold and were excluded from direct funding in the CARES Act. Specifically, we request the following:

  • Establish a base of $1,000,000 for all counties/county-equivalents with a population below 500,000
  • Establish a relief fund, similar to the fund established in CARES, to appropriate specific funding to local governments under the 500,000 population threshold
  • Ensure flexibility for this funding to replace losses incurred as a result of COVID-19


We are working on a bipartisan legislative proposal that would accomplish these goals, and we hope to work with House and Senate leadership to ensure that this proposal is included in the next COVID-19 assistance bill. 


Our local governments are on the front lines of this crisis. We look forward to working with you to ensure that all of our counties receive the assistance they need to keep our communities safe and healthy.