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After reopening vote, Newsom administration threatens to withhold aid to Tulare Co.

Following the Tulare County Board of Supervisors’ vote on Tuesday to stop enforcing California’s shelter-in-place order, the state has responded with a threat to withhold coronavirus disaster and relief funding.

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services sent a letter to Tulare County Administrative Officer Jason Britt on Tuesday saying the county’s actions are problematic and concerning.

“The county’s actions could threaten Tulare County’s eligibility for disaster funding,” the letter read. “This funding is designed to assist jurisdictions facing extraordinary circumstances beyond the jurisdiction’s capability.

“If Tulare County believes there is no emergency, such that it can ignore the Governor’s Executive Orders or the State Public Health Officer’s directives, the county would not be able to demonstrate that it was extraordinarily and disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. This could jeopardize its disaster funding.”

Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom proposed a revised state budget that included $1.3 billion in COVID-19 recovery funding for county governments and $450 million for cities.

“This funding is explicitly contingent upon jurisdictions’ adherence to federal guidelines and the state’s stay-at-home order,” the letter read. “Clearly, the actions Tulare County has taken would render it and the cities within the county ineligible for this funding, as they are in direct contradiction of the state’s stay-at-home order.”

The board’s decision passed on a 3-2 vote, with supervisors Kuyler Crocker, Pete Vander Poel and Dennis Townsend voting in favor. Supervisors Amy Shuklian and Eddie Valero opposed the push.

Crocker stands by the board’s decision and is not overly concerned by the state’s letter. He compared the letter to the ones sent to Sutter and Yuba counties a few weeks ago which made the same threat.

Although the state made its threat to Sutter and Yuba counties, it has yet to follow through and withhold aid.

Crocker said he has been in close contact with state legislators and is confident in their ability to appropriate the funding correctly.

“They’re committed to helping us financially and supporting us via the state legislature,” Crocker said. “The legislature still has to approve budgets, and they have the power of the purse.”

Crocker also said the State of California has failed in its job to keep nursing home residents safe, considering that the state is the primary licensing authority for skilled nursing facilities.

“The same state that has failed in their obligation to keep people safe from a health pandemic is the same state that’s now creating metrics that all residents are supposed to be abiding by, whether they’re in cities or counties,” Crocker said.

“That doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t have the confidence in their ability to set metrics when they can’t even take care of the most vulnerable people that we’ve asked them to take care of.”

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at [email protected]