Del Mar, Solana Beach among small cities to receive funding in new aid bill

The sun sets on the U.S. Capitol building, Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Washington.
The sun sets on the U.S. Capitol building, Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Washington.

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

North Coastal cities will receive direct payments from the new $1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid bill, after a population requirement in last year’s CARES Act excluded all small cities.

Solana Beach will receive an estimated $2.5 million and Del Mar a little more than $800,000. Encinitas will get approximately $8.8 million, Carlsbad $13.4 million and Oceanside $33.4 million.

The CARES Act allocated funding to local governments that served populations of at least 500,000. In San Diego, only the city of San Diego and county government met that requirement. The state and county appropriated some of their funding to cities in San Diego that did not qualify for direct funding.

The new bill spearheaded by President Joe Biden, the American Rescue Plan, provides $19.5 billion for cities of 50,000 or fewer residents, $45.6 billion for big cities and $65.1 billion for counties.

Cities will be able to use the funding for programs that help residents and businesses, or to cover COVID-related revenue losses.

“Our council looks forward to determining how best to allocate this much-needed funding to best serve our community,” Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner said during a March 10 City Council meeting.

Del Mar Mayor Terry Gaasterland said in an interview that the funding is “a significant amount of money” for the city, which has had to endure revenues losses from a decline in tourism and cancellations of large events at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

“We have some capital improvement projects and some other projects that were put on deep freeze during the COVID crisis,” Gaasterland said. “We, as a council, will evaluate each, and determine what’s the very best way to use these funds in order to make Del Mar safe and fiscally healthy.”

Leaders from North Coastal cities had been asking U.S. Rep. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, to make sure they would be included in future aid bills. In March 2020, as pandemic-related business closures and lockdowns began taking effect, Levin wrote a letter to House leaders with that precise request, emphasizing the “immediate and stark” impact that COVID-19 has had on the small cities in his district. The National League of Cities had also written to Congressional leaders about direct funding to smaller cities.

Levin said in a statement shortly after Congress approved the bill that the additional aid “meets the health and economic crises we’re facing with investments to put vaccines in arms, money in pockets, kids in schools, and people back in jobs.”

“It will help local small businesses and restaurants we cherish stay open,” Levin said. “And it will provide local governments – including all of the smaller cities in my district – with direct funding to maintain essential services and keep frontline workers on the job. This bill provides the relief that the American people need.”

State Sen. President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, said in a statement that the need for more relief is “still much greater than the resources we have.”

“Our fair share of federal relief will mean help for people who are struggling, for our communities, and for our most vulnerable families,” she said.