Carbajal Leads Letter Encouraging State Leaders to Share COVID-19 Relief Funds with Special District Local Service Providers

Washington, DC – This week, Congressman Salud Carbajal led a letter urging California State leadership to ensure special districts’ can access COVID-19 relief funding provided under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP).

The letter to Governor Gavin Newsom, State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and State Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins highlights that special district local governments providing millions of Californians with essential services, such as water, wastewater, fire protection, healthcare, parks, and more have yet to receive direct access to COVID-19 relief funding. The American Rescue Plan, passed by Congress and signed into law this spring, explicitly provides states transfer authority to open a portion of the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund monies to special districts. The State of California will receive $27 billion under the program.

Rep. Carbajal acknowledged the significant impact special districts have when it comes to providing essential services to our communities, and sent the letter to underscore the significance opening a share of State fund would have on these local governments.

“Special districts provide essential government services that protect our public health, safety, and quality of life. Despite their important role, special districts on the Central Coast and across the country have been left out of federal assistance designed to assist local governments. As a result, 42% of special districts have had to scale back the essential services they provide and 1 out of 3 special districts have reduced their frontline workforce,” said Rep. Carbajal. “When special districts are excluded from relief, essential frontline workers and community residents are excluded from relief. The American Rescue Plan gave states the authority to direct a portion of COVID-19 relief dollars to special districts and I encourage our state to lead by example by ensuring special districts have the same level of access to fiscal relief as their local government counterparts.”

Delegation members co-signing the letter include Representatives Ami Bera, Julia Brownley, Jim Costa, Mark DeSaulnier, John Garamendi, Jared Huffman, Ro Khanna, Barbara Lee, Mike Levin, Ted Lieu, Alan Lowenthal, Jerry McNerney, Jimmy Panetta, and Jackie Speier.


More than 2,000 special districts provide a variety of specialized services that other units of government do not otherwise provide to millions of Californians. Collectively, they anticipate $2.43 billion in pandemic impacts. Resulting from an oversight in the definition of “units of local government,” special districts in California did not receive direct access to the CARES Act-established Coronavirus Relief Fund. As a result, special districts, the 120,000 front-line workers they employ, and the communities they serve have not received relief to support the services and infrastructure they provide.

The California Special Districts Association is leading state advocacy efforts to secure a portion of the State’s Fiscal Recovery Fund to ensure the local agencies’ ability to continue providing quality services in their communities.

“Special districts across California continue to provide essential services and infrastructure to millions despite mounting impacts of COVID-19 and little access to relief programs open to all other state and local governments,” said Neil McCormick, Chief Executive Officer of the California Special Districts Association. “Congressman Carbajal and the coalition of California’s representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives’ encouragement of State leaders’ to share funding with special districts is a monumental display of support. On behalf of California’s special districts, we sincerely appreciate everyone fighting for the communities our members work so hard to serve.”

Subsequent guidance form the U.S. Department of Treasury issued on May 10 specifically references special districts in its explanation of why the transfer authority to other units of government was created.

“Congress recognized the importance of providing flexibility to governments seeking to achieve the greatest impact with their funds, including by working with other levels or units of government or private entities to assist recipient governments in carrying out their programs,” the guidance reads. “This includes special-purpose districts that perform specific functions in the community, such as fire, water, sewer, or mosquito abatement districts.”

Rep. Salud Carbajal represents California’s 24th congressional district, encompassing Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and part of Ventura County. He sits on the House Armed Services Committee, Agriculture Committee, and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where he serves as the Chair of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.


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