Long Beach misses out on $189 million as White House halts coronavirus relief talks

Long Beach officials anticipating federal aid to support the local economy were blindsided Thursday as President Donald Trump called off negotiations with Democratic lawmakers to formulate a coronavirus relief bill until after the election.

Long Beach City manager Tom Modica said the city was eligible for roughly $189 million in direct relief from a proposed $179 billion aid package that cities and counties nationwide were hoping to receive. Money would have also been allocated for specific causes such as housing and education.

“It’s very unfortunate,” Modica said. “Clearly, there’s need for it.”

Republican and Democratic lawmakers struggled for months over the proposed bill, and reached a stalemate over how much it would pay out. The pandemic has taken a toll on the city’s economy, ripping a $30 million deficit into the budget’s general fund, which funds public services. Modica said the city will likely spend about $100 million in coronavirus response by the end of the year.

“That’s the short term number—this is a long pandemic,” he said. As millions of Americans face unemployment, Long Beach is currently furloughing employees, which is impacting some city services. Although a complete spending plan hasn’t been outlined yet, Modica said the chance of another round of federal aid would allow the city to potentially undo future furloughs.

Christine Bos, the government affairs manager for the city’s Chamber of Commerce, called the president’s announcement “disappointing.”

“The Chamber, along with our partner organizations, have been strongly advocating for continued negotiations and ultimate decision regarding further fiscal support,” Bos wrote in an email to the Post. “New aid would continue to keep our businesses running and people employed.”

Bos said many businesses, such as the hotel, aviation and cruise industries, were impacted by the pandemic. Small businesses have also felt the sting of the economic turmoil with some closing down permanently.

Trump stated via a thread of tweets that he decided to call off negotiations for now to have Sen. Mitch McConnell focus on appointing his Supreme Court nominee—Amy Coney Barrett—adding that if he won reelection a stimulus bill would be passed then.

Modica said the city is on standby, and ready to disperse aid when it is made available. He said that the roughly $40 million received through the CARES act is still being distributed up until December.

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Sebastian Echeverry is the North Long Beach reporter through the Report for America program. Philanthropic organizations pledged to cover the local donor portion of his grant-funded position with the Long Beach Post. If you want to support Sebastian's work, you can donate to his Report for America position at lbpost.com/support.
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