Stimulus checks aside, the Turlock community will benefit greatly from the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package passed at the federal level last week.
Of the $350 billion included in the American Rescue Plan Act for aid to states, counties, cities, U.S. territories and tribal governments, California is expected to receive $42 billion with Stanislaus County and its nine cities in line to receive $196 million. The City of Turlock is slated to receive $16 million in COVID relief funding, while an additional $32 million will go to Turlock Unified School District as part of the package’s effort to aid in the effort of safely reopening campuses.
Rep. Josh Harder, who voted “yes” on the relief package, said the funding will be instrumental in helping the Central Valley — and Turlock — recover from the pandemic.
“The Valley is always the first place to get hit the hardest by any economic downturn,” Harder said. “...When the country sneezes, we catch a cold.”
Funding can help with everything from short term solutions like vaccine distribution to business grants, he said, as well as long term issues such as job creation and healthcare access. The federal funding will complement not only the $1,400 checks that many will receive, but also builds upon a component of the relief package which increases the child tax credit and provides advanced payments of the credit to qualifying families — money that is much-needed by struggling households.
Economists estimate the increased child tax credit will help cut child poverty in the Valley in half, Harder said.
“That’s a real amount of money for a lot of families,” he said.
The $16 million that the City of Turlock is expected to receive from the latest relief package is quite the boost from the $2.5 million it received as part of the CARES Act, passed last year. The City used the last round of funding to create a small business grant program and to support the County StanRAD card focused on the downtown area.
As the City fights issues like homelessness and budget cuts, Interim City Manager Gary Hampton said City staff is currently researching the American Rescue Plan Act in order to understand the timing of disbursement to cities, as well as what exactly the money can be used for and its framework.
“Once staff has assembled the details, City Council can begin discussing recovery options and priorities for the City,” Hampton said. “Clearly, like all other U.S. cities, Turlock is focused on developing a comprehensive recovery strategy, utilizing all available recovery resources — working to uplift the community to the greatest degree.”
Like the City, TUSD isn’t yet certain how the money will be spent — but Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Accountability Marjorie Bettencourt assured the community that the reopening of schools is not contingent upon any pandemic-related funding.
“Once information is received on allowable expenditures, TUSD will use the funding to mitigate learning loss for students that includes intervention, extended learning time, mental-health and counseling, and professional development related to technology and best practices in addition to other permissible costs,” Bettencourt said.
Harder hopes that the American Rescue Plan Act is the last relief package necessary for the country, but that will ultimately be up to the virus to decide, he said.
“The first relief package was passed almost a year ago and we’ve learned a lot about the pandemic over the last year. What hasn't really changed is the stuff and pain people have been through,” Harder said.