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Atwater Mayor Paul Creighton (Photo: Youtube)

Gov. Newsom Blocks COVID-19 Funding For Two California Cities Not Obeying Closure Order

Atwater and Coalinga lose over a combined $600,000 in defiance against state

By Evan Symon, July 29, 2020 3:23 am

On Monday, two Central Valley cities confirmed that they would be going against lockdown orders from Governor Gavin Newsom and allow all businesses within their cities to remain open, costing the cities over $600,000 in state relief aid.

Atwater, Coalinga confirm resolutions marking all businesses as essential

Atwater, a city in Merced County with a population of 29,000, and Coalinga, a city in Fresno County with a population of 17,000, had issued measures last week against the Governor’s lockdown orders. Atwater had issued a resolution earlier this month marking down all businesses within the city as essential, declaring itself a “sanctuary city” against lockdown orders. Coalinga, meanwhile, issued a similar resolution, with the Coalinga City Council voting 4 to 1 to reaffirm the city’s order.

Governor Newsom subsequently blocked the first round of the $2.5 billion in federal funds received by the state to disperse to cities for COVID-19 pandemic spending from the two cities. Atwater lost $65,000 while Coalinga lost $35,000. Governor Newsom had previously threatened withholding federal funds from other cities, most notably the entire county of Tulare earlier this year when they voted to reopen during the first lockdown, but had yet to actually do it until Atwater and Coalinga refused to comply earlier this month.

State officials from the Office of Emergency Services sent letters to the mayors last week warning them that they would lose all incoming COVID-19 and state help should they continue to ignore orders, noting that the Governor had been given the authority to do so. However, both city councils met Monday night and confirmed that they would stick to their resolutions, leading to cheering from many in attendance.

“We chose our path and we prepared for it,” said Atwater Mayor Paul Creighton after the confirmation of the resolution. “It’s just politics, that we have the word ‘sanctuary’ for businesses and faith-based groups. We support open and safe masks [and] social distancing.”

Both cities now stand to lose the rest of the roughly $5000,000 in projected emergency funding in future disbursements should they continue to refuse to abide by the state lockdown and business orders. However, both cities had also planned ahead, shifting their budgets earlier in expectance of lost funding from the state.

Defiance in Atwater and Coalinga

Residents of both cities are also, by and large, on the side of the cities and their defiance, despite rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in Merced County and Fresno County.

“They’re definitely in the minority here,” said Coalinga resident and resolution supporter Nadine Pole. “Everyone knows what we are giving up, but when you look at the budget, money we save from installing coronavirus things around town don’t eat up the budget.

“Shop owners here are especially thankful. Go into any one and they’re so happy that  they’re still open and not losing any money over this.

“That’s what everyone up in Sacramento are forgetting. What we and Atwater are doing are saving people’s small businesses by being open as normal. We’re still following health guidelines, and through that, we found a good middle point in helping economically and helping health-wise. The state wants to take that away.”

Mayor Creighton also noted that Atwater is at about an 80-20 split in favor of the resolution.

However, both cities may be potentially losing hundreds of thousands of dollars of even more funding due to the Central Valley receiving a large $52 million COVID-19 relief package from Governor Newsom. While details aren’t clear on the division of funds, due to Governor Newsom’s involvement officials have suggested that any defiant cities may lose out on this block of funding as well.

As of Tuesday, both Atwater and Coalinga have continued to refuse to comply despite more potential funding losses, with Mayor Creighton even noting that the city would like to sue the state but can’t due to the tighter budget.

“Everything we need that money to do, we’re not going to be able to do now,” added Mayor Creighton.

Evan Symon
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6 thoughts on “Gov. Newsom Blocks COVID-19 Funding For Two California Cities Not Obeying Closure Order

  1. Easy fix for the City is just to keep all State Sales generated in the city; do not give one penny to the State.

  2. Two thoughts: First, are there federal rules regarding how funds given to a state are disbursed? Is Newsome breaking those rules? If so, can the US Justice Dept charge Newsome/State of CA with violating rules or otherwise compel Newsome/CA to disburse the federal portion of the funds? Second, can the feds provide funds directly to those two cities, as a special case? This would score big points with Trump’s base, and, as a bonus, make the democrats’ heads spin completely off their bodies!

    1. JFB: I remember Trump saying weeks ago, when the Fed COVID aid passed, that if the states did not or would not disburse the COVID Federal money properly that the Feds would do it for them. I assume that statement reflected the federal rules on this subject.

  3. ………City attorneys should need to be suing the snot out of Noose’em. His totalitarian power grab mentality is off the hook. Apparently it runs in the family.

  4. It is my understanding that the City of Thousand Oaks and County of Ventura are not enforcing Governor Newsom’s order to stop indoor church services. The Church called Godspeak in Newbury Park has refused to stop their 3 services on Sundays indoors with no social distancing or face masks, and the city and county is not enforcing the Governor’s mandate. Will the City and county lose out on state funds because of their refusal?

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