The City of Santa Monica has received limited support from the federal government despite previously having to cut its budget by nearly 25% from the prior year as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Senate’s recent passage of a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill has local leaders hopeful the city will soon see millions of dollars in aid that will be used to assist Santa Monica’s recovery efforts.

At the start of the pandemic, City Hall restructured services and finances to address hundreds of millions of dollars in deficits while officials hoped significant aid would arrive to shore up the city’s struggling economy. However, it did not.

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which passed in March 2020, set aside $150 billion to stabilize states, territories, tribal, and local governments, but the Act failed to include any direct stabilization aid to local governments with populations under 500,000, regardless of public health or economic impacts, Interim City Manager Lane Dilg has explained on a few occasions over the months.

So while Santa Monica only saw a little more than a million dollars, cities with populations that are only three to five times the size of Santa Monica received nearly 20 times as much funding. For context, Bakersfield, a Central Valley city with a population around 375,000, received $33.5 million and Long Beach, which has a population of 360,000, was granted $40.3 million of CARES Act funds, Dilg said.

But there’s hope in President Joe Biden’s “American Rescue Plan,” which city staff described as an ambitious legislative package that would fund COVID-19 vaccinations, provide direct federal relief to families and support struggling communities across the US.

The plan includes billions in emergency funding that will be used by state and local governments to keep essential frontline workers employed, facilitate continued testing and vaccine distribution, reopen schools, and aid in the collective economic recovery, according to city officials, who said federal representatives in Congress and the White House have been hard at work ensuring the unique needs of smaller cities like Santa Monica are not left out of the formula that will eventually determine how much aid is delivered to states and local municipalities like ours.

Like many city leaders throughout the region, Dilg said this week she believes the passage of the American Rescue Plan is a huge step forward for working families in Santa Monica and across the country since it will provide much needed funding that will allow city leaders a chance to accelerate vaccine rollouts, support the reopening of schools and small businesses in the community.

“The City is very pleased to be receiving $29 million from the bill to help offset the very substantial COVID-related revenue losses that the City budget has experienced over the first year of the pandemic,” Dilg said, adding, “It is important to remember that this one-time federal aid to the City represents a small fraction of the revenue lost in COVID and only approximately 4% of the City’s current operating budget.”

The relief package — which was approved by the Senate on a 50 to 49 vote after an overnight session — is now heading to the House of Representatives to incorporate Senate amendments.

Brennon@smdp.com

This article was updated to reflect the fact the city cut 25% of its budget from the prior year.