YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - Governor Doug Ducey withheld a portion of CARES Act funds from smaller cities in Arizona to use for what he says, "additional needs".
According to a letter sent to Governor Doug Ducey by state officials that represent Yuma County, almost $400 million of CARES Act funds have been withheld from rural and smaller counties in the state.
This comes after Congress directed $2.8 billion in funds to cities, towns, and counties to use as a lifeline to help preserve municipal services, and help those most affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
This includes first responders, and providing aid to homeless as well.
Larger cities such as Tucson, Phoenix, and Mesa received the CARES Act funds directly since they hold a population of more than 500,000 residents.
For smaller cities, such as those in Yuma County, the funds were sent to the Governor's office to be distributed.
In a briefing on Wednesday, Governor Ducey claims that a federal formula from the Department of Treasury was used as guidance in distributing funds.
Larger cities received $174 per person compared to smaller cities who only received $115 per person.
The Governor was asked by reporters why the same formula used for larger cities wasn't used for smaller cities? According to the governor:
"That's at the discretion of the governor."
"We have additional needs for those dollars."
These additional needs were said to be unemployment, insurance funds, and K-12 education for the entire state of Arizona.
Representative Charlene Fernandez, Senator Lisa Otondo, and House Representative Geraldine Peten all signed a letter last week voicing their concerns with Governor Ducey shortchanging smaller cities.
The letter states:
"These communities need every cent they can muster to help residents stay safe and stay afloat with no cure or slowdown in sight."
"I think we're getting hit harder because we don't have the resources." says Rep. Fernandez, "If anything we need more money in the outlining areas and smaller cities."
In a statement from Senator Lisa Otondo regarding the issue:
As a resident of Yuma myself, I can tell you first hand that the Governor's mixed messages have real implications for the ability of the local government to keep this community safe and afloat.
Tony Reyes, Chairman of Yuma County Board of Supervisors says that smaller cities not receiving their fair share of funds is something that happens often.
"It's disappointing to not have the state government not understand that some areas feel the impact much more than others, and focus on the level of need instead of the size of the community," Reyes says.
Both Reyes and Rep. Fernandez agree that the governor needs to allocate the funds taken away back where they belong to help our community with handling the pandemic.