State threatens to pull millions of dollars in COVID-19 funding from Tulare County

The director of the Governor's Office of Emergency Services says they are at risk of losing COVID-19 disaster funding and $47 million in CARES Act funding allocated by the state.
VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Tulare County doesn't yet meet the state standards to fully enter phase 2 of re-opening businesses.

But on Tuesday, county supervisors voted to skip all the way to Phase 3, which California isn't allowing any other county to do.

In a letter to supervisors, state officials say their decision jeopardizes public health and safety.

If that wasn't enough, the director of the Governor's Office of Emergency Services says they are at risk of losing COVID-19 disaster funding and $47 million in CARES Act funding allocated by the state.

Supervisor Amy Shuklian voted against Tuesday's action, which passed by a vote of 3-2.

"Now we stand a great chance - I don't think it's just a threat, I think there's a big chance - that we won't receive that money if we continue down this path," Shuklian said.

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Tulare County doesn't yet meet the state standards to fully enter phase 2 but on Tuesday, county supervisors voted to skip all the way to Phase 3.




Dennis Townsend was the supervisor who made the original motion that was later clarified to mean that all Tulare County businesses can reopen if they choose to.

He says the state's threat to cut COVID-19 relief funds is concerning, but he believes federal legislators can possibly help secure the funds anyway.

"To say - well, we're just going to pull it back because you're not playing exactly according to our metrics, then that sort of pulls back the curtain and tells you what they're thinking about the people in the county," Townsend said.
Kaweah Delta CEO Gary Herbst says he's not interested in judging or criticizing Tuesday's vote.

But as society at large moves towards reopening, he says the hospital continues to prepare for an influx in coronavirus patients by keeping beds empty.


They're currently treating 29 people with COVID-19.

"Our biggest concern is will that create a second wave? Will we receive a resurgence? And it's quite possible," Herbst said. "We're worried about even if we moved into phase two, and here I understand that the county kind of wants to go straight to phase three."

City of Tulare officials released a statement later on Wednesday, which read in part:

"The City of Tulare has no intent to issue any directive that would contradict State guidelines; to do so not only creates health and safety risks, but also jeopardizes funding from the State to reimburse costs related to the mitigation of COVID-19 in our community. As a result of the County's declaration yesterday, the County received a letter from the Office of Emergency Services last night (Tuesday, May 19) which threatened exactly that, not only to the County, but to the Cities within the County, even though the City of Tulare was not consulted or provided any input into the County's decision. The City of Tulare is facing unprecedented shortfalls in its budget due to COVID19, and as such, are unwilling to take any action that further risks the City's financial future."
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