Orange County’s Neediest Cities Will Receive More than $100 Million in Federal Funds 

March 18, 2021 Updated: March 18, 2021

Santa Ana and Anaheim—two of Orange County’s most underprivileged cities—will each receive more than $100 million in federal funding to attempt to revive their depressed economies.

The money is part of the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill signed into law by the federal government last week.

About $143 million will be allocated to Santa Ana in what Mayor Vicente Sarmiento called “a once-in-a-century kind of thing.”

The city will use its funds to launch “Revive Santa Ana,” a pandemic recovery program that will allow it to redesign its services for residents.

During a city council meeting March 16, Sarmiento suggested that the city consider making its own health department, in order to be less dependent on the Orange County Health Care Agency during critical times such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The county couldn’t handle the needs and the problems that Santa Ana has,” the mayor said during the meeting.

“We can make this a transformational moment where we address some legacy problems, reinvent the way we do business, and meaningfully change the lives of our residents. This is an opportunity to build back different and better.”

Revive Santa Ana would encompass five focus areas, including COVID-19 recovery, financial assistance programs for businesses and residents, homelessness, critical infrastructure, and city fiscal health.

Bridging the Gap

The City of Anaheim will receive $107.6 million in federal funds, spokesman Mike Lyster said.

Like all cities, Anaheim will receive the money in two equal installments, with the first arriving in May and the second one year from then.

The city will use the funds to replace its lost revenue over the past year, Lyster said.

“We are looking to use the federal aid as revenue replacement. … It’s our understanding that it can be used for that,” he told The Epoch Times. “Through no fault of our own, the pandemic has had an outsized impact on Anaheim because we’re a visitor city.”

Due to lost funds from shuttered attractions such as Disneyland, Anaheim forecasts that it will have a budget deficit of between $100 million and $115 million.

“That is a huge shortfall in revenue for us that is caused by folks not coming to our city to stay in hotels, to spend money out and about at our theme parks, at our restaurants, or baseball or hockey games,” Lyster said. “What we’ve seen is unprecedented, which is the two theme parks of the Disneyland Resort have been closed for 12 months now, as has our convention center.”

Anaheim will also be using the money to continue providing services for residents, Lyster said.

The city has taken some cost-cutting measures due to the pandemic, including attrition, putting off vehicle purchases, and stopping nonessential tree trimming.

Given that the city will get only $53 million in the first installment of funding, it will not be enough to fully pay off its deficit. It is considering issuing bonds to generate revenue to cover the balance of the deficit.

“We’re fortunate to be able to have that as a recourse. It’s something that we don’t do lightly, but we realize we can’t cut our way out of [the deficit]. If we did, we would begin to impact residents too much in terms of services that they rely on,” Lyster said.

“We are optimistic longer term, once we get through this unique period that we’re in, that we will see visitors come back, and that will drive revenue for our city, but we just need to get through this interim period of the next couple of years.”

According to the federal stimulus act, funds received need to be spent by December 2024.

Follow Drew on Twitter: @DrewVanVoorhis