Just hours after Tulare County supervisors voted to open up for business despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s lockdown orders, officials received a letter threatening to withhold some of the $47 million in federal CARES Act relief funds it had been awarded.
“It is my understanding Tulare County has taken steps that are inconsistent with the Governor’s Executive Orders and the State Public Health Officer’s directives,” the letter from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services said.
“These problematic and concerning actions jeopardize public health and safety, not only within the county, but beyond, through community contact and spread,” the letter said. It went on:
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 fundin.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported on how local officials were responding to the suffering of local businesses when they voted to reopen:
“It’s become an issue of needing to get people back on their feet, back to work,” said Supervisor Dennis Townsend, who authored the county’s measure that permits virtually all businesses to reopen and halts local enforcement of the California stay-at-home directive. “By trying to protect people, we were taking away the livelihood of people.”
The Visalia Times Delta reported on the rift between state and local governments:
The supervisors’ 3-2 decision allows nearly all businesses to reopen that fall under Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the state’s plan. That includes dine-in restaurants, churches, barbers, gyms, movie theaters and shopping malls.
As for the disaster funding, Townsend said the county has spent about $1.4 million on its COVID-19 response so far. By comparison, the CAO estimates the county will lose between $18-25 million in tax revenues with the economy shut down.
On Monday, Newsom singled out Tulare and neighboring Kings counties as two of five that will remain closed under newly relaxed criteria for restarting California’s economy. He pointed to severe outbreaks at nursing homes and meatpacking plants as obstacles the bi-county region would need to overcome before its economy could progress.
The Times Delta reported that Chairman Pete Vander Poel said “holding Tulare County hostage” because of nursing homes and the “corporate bad actors” who operate them for a profit is unfair because it is, after all, the state regulates those facilities.
But some businesses are nervous since state officials have bullied them.