Federal Aid Helps Cover Losses in Orange County Cities

By Jack Bradley
Jack Bradley
Jack Bradley
Jack Bradley is a daily news reporter for The Epoch Times based in Southern California.
June 17, 2021 Updated: June 17, 2021

Cities in Orange County, California, are using their shares of the $350 billion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) stimulus to rebuild from the economically crippling CCP virus pandemic.

The federal aid is meant to help lessen the economic harm and recover lost revenue during the pandemic. Each of Orange County’s 34 cities are receiving a share of about $715 million from the ARPA, which will be distributed in two tranches, one year apart.

Each city is confined to using the ARPA’s guidelines for funding in the following areas: economic aid to households, small businesses, nonprofits, tourism, and hospitality; premium pay for essential workers; government services affected by a revenue reduction resulting from the CCP virus; private nonprofit groups, public benefit transportation corporations, and special-purpose units of state or local governments.

An Anaheim spokesperson said the tourism city intends to use its ARPA funds to replace lost revenue from the closure of the Disneyland theme parks, the Anaheim Convention Center, and sports venues such as the Angels Stadium.

Anaheim’s fiscal year 2020–21 budget faces a $100 million deficit, which will carry over into the next fiscal year, when the deficit is expected to swell even more.

“We lost our main source of revenue over the past year,” Anaheim spokesperson Mike Lyster told The Epoch Times. “We will use it to replace lost revenue.”

The city received its first payment in May of around $53.5 million, and will be collecting a total of $107 million by the end of the next fiscal year.

“That basically helps us cover part of the deficit this year, and part of it next year,” Lyster said.

He said the city must borrow about $150 million in bonds to make up the remaining deficit.

“Had we not received federal assistance, we would have had to borrow more, and we are not a city that takes borrowing lightly.”

Anaheim’s city government didn’t have any layoffs, Lyster said. However, the city offered an early retirement program that offered incentives for retiring early, and about 90 people took that route.

Lyster said if the city had not received the ARPA funds, it would have had to make cuts to essential services such as the city’s police and fire departments and public works.

“It wasn’t really an option for us to cut our way out,” he said. “The cuts would have been too big and really had a big impact on what we do as a city, which is serve residents.”

Despite the hole that the pandemic has left on Anaheim, Lyster said the city is fortunate due to its various assets and investment plans.

“As we look ahead and we see expansion by Disney and theme parks and building around Angel Stadium, we see a bright future because those things will generate revenue for us,” he said.

Irvine is receiving a $53.2 million, one-time installment. However, it’s unclear where the city intends to allocate the money.

“Our plans are still in flux for the American Rescue Plan Funds,” Irvine spokesperson Kristina Perrigoue told The Epoch Times via email on June 17.

Santa Ana is receiving a total of $130 million through ARPA. The city will receive $79.5 million in the first installment.

During a May 24 council meeting, Santa Ana revealed its ARPA spending strategy.

The city proposed spending $6 million on recovery from the pandemic through local vaccinations, expansion of critical city communications methods, and sanitization efforts.

An additional $20.6 million is budgeted for direct assistance programs such as the emergency rental assistance program, housing vouchers, food distribution, and reopening assistance to businesses.

Santa Ana plans to spend $14 million on public health and safety, with most of that amount funding additional green space at Santa Anita Park, healthy food access, and upgraded park restrooms.

About $24 million will be spent on critical infrastructure, including affordable broadband access, improvements to the central library, and pedestrian and mobility improvements.

About $14.9 million will be spent on city fiscal health to go toward revenue lost in certain government services.

The city wants to allocate $38.4 million to reduce and respond to homelessness, including navigation centers and homeless shelters, street outreach, and clean-up.

Jack Bradley
Jack Bradley
Jack Bradley is a daily news reporter for The Epoch Times based in Southern California.