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Smaller Local Cities Fear They Could Lose Out On Federal Coronavirus Relief

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A bus that shuttles Anaheim visitors to and from Disneyland is seen in this photo taken July 25, 2014.
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Leaders of small and mid-sized cities, including Southern California cities, are worried they could be left out of federal bailouts for local governments in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Here's why: The $2.3 trillion federal stimulus package passed by Congress last month, the CARES Act, includes $150 billion for direct help to state and local municipalities hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. But to apply to the Treasury Department for aid, cities have to be one of 36 metros nationwide with populations over 500,000.

Los Angeles is big enough to fit that bill, but Southern California cities like Anaheim, Santa Ana, Bakersfield and Riverside are not. Their leaders have to appeal to Sacramento for a piece of the state pie.

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Officials who are on the ground directing coronavirus response at the city level say that’s not good enough.

L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino, who’s president of the National League of Cities (NLC), said Tuesday during a conference call with mayors and members of city councils all over the country, “This is our message: we need direct funding for cities of all sizes.”

“It’s reprehensible and inexcusable that every other city that’s below 500,000 in population [is] currently not given direct funding,” Buscaino said.

Economic activity makes up a large chunk of city funding. In L.A.’s case that includes sales taxes, hotel fees, even parking tickets. Thousands of cities around the country are now turning to program cuts, furloughs and layoffs to deal with plunging revenue since coronavirus and social distancing brought local economies to a screeching halt.

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