The state is cracking down on Atwater, which attracted national attention when it declared itself a “sanctuary city” for businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-May.

On Thursday night, the state notified Atwater officials that the city is ineligible for $389,000 in state assistance to deal with the coronavirus.

Atwater’s first Coronavirus Relief Fund allocation of $64,833 will be withheld “until the city rescinds its resolution and complies with state public health orders,” said Brian Ferguson, a deputy director with California’s Office of Emergency Services.

Funds Withheld From Coalinga, Too

In addition, officials in Coalinga were notified Thursday night that the city won’t receive $216,000 in CRF funding until it complies with state directives. Coalinga’s first allocation is $36,000. The Coalinga City Council passed a resolution declaring all businesses “essential” and therefore not subject to state public health orders in May.

“The state remains optimistic that these cities will do what is right to protect public health and safety in their communities and will move expeditiously to rescind their resolutions,” Ferguson said.

State Budget Included Provisions to Enforce Orders

When the Legislature passed the budget signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last month, the budget included provisions requiring local governments to adhere to COVID-19 public health orders to be eligible for state funding.

Officials in Atwater voted unanimously not to enforce the then nearly 2-month-old state shelter-at-home orders intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus. At that time, they made it clear the city wouldn’t interfere with any business or church that decided to reopen ahead of state restrictions.

However, Atwater Mayor Paul Creighton cautioned that businesses were taking their own risks by reopening.

“If you do have a state (business) license, that’s between you and the state of California,” Creighton told the Merced Sun-Star.

Open at Your Own Risk

On May 7, the Coalinga City Council passed a resolution on a 4-1 vote stating that all businesses were allowed to stay open and operate “for the duration of the local and state emergency” as long as they followed social distance guidelines.

The following day, the Reel Time movie theater in Coalinga opened its doors for the first time since state guidelines classified entertainment venues as non-essential businesses.

“We have conditioned $2.5 billion in our state budget on applying the spirit and the letter of the law as it relates to health directives at the county level. If local officials are unwilling to enforce and are being dismissive, we will condition the distribution of those dollars. Again, $2.5 billion.” — Gov. Gavin Newsom

Just like in Atwater, city officials informed businesses that they could reopen — at their own risk.

“We’re giving them the freedom to open up on their own, but they know there could be ramifications from the state,” Coalinga City Councilmember Adam Adkisson told ABC30.

‘Strike Teams’ Enforce COVID-19 Orders

At the beginning of July, the state created “strike teams” from 10 state agencies to enforce coronavirus guidelines. Newsom said then that the teams would “go after people that are thumbing their nose, that are particularly being aggressive, reticent to do anything.”

Newsom also said that counties failing to enforce statewide and local orders could lose out on their shares of $2.5 billion in aid.

“We have conditioned $2.5 billion in our state budget on applying the spirit and the letter of the law as it relates to health directives at the county level,” Newsom said. “If local officials are unwilling to enforce and are being dismissive, we will condition the distribution of those dollars. Again, $2.5 billion.”


2 Responses

  1. William

    Tell Newsom to take his CARES money and shove it. $ 300, 000 wouldn’t put a dent into the loss of economics if Atwater had closed their entire town down. Be real … closing towns down has led to a ripple effect harming everyone. TakeFresno as an example , people laid off from restaurants and their suppliers working at bare capacity the ripple effect has devastated Fresno to the point fresno has a $40 million deficit.
    Bankrupt the state so we officially become one big socialist state.

  2. Kristine

    Well I think the federal government needs to withhold money from California for violating the 1st amendment by forcing the closure of churches and banning churches to sing and read scriptures aloud. Newsom is making everything worse by his edicts forcing business closure and sending people and businesses into bankruptcy. Essential services to the public are even shut down. The housing authority is shut down at a time people are losing their homes. Basically Newsom is strong arming Californians while he lives in a mansion that was shady with the transfer of the home to him. The governor’s mansion isn’t good enough for him and his kids?! Newsom is corrupt just like Auntie Pelosi.

    Also it’s a proven scientific FACT that wearing masks DO NOT protect you from COVID-19. The particles are so small they go right through a mask and people touching their faces then touching something else is what spreads germs. A person’s oxygen level drops while wearing the mask down to a minimum of 86% causing people to pass out from lack of oxygen. Also it’s unhealthy to breath your own carbon dioxide! This is democrats trying to control and force a socialist government on Americans. Well I can’t breath wearing a mask and it fogs up my glasses. I feel like I’m going to pass out from as mask. I will resist wearing them. There is no law requiring us to wear a mask. It’s dictator Newsom edict. He’s trying to run the state on his own. That’s not how our constitution works! Gavin Newsom you ARE going to get RESISTANCE this time on stay at home orders and shutting businesses down as well as thinking you can stop the church! The church isn’t a building it’s people who make up the church and we’ll go outside and sing and worship our God our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Your corruption has been noted by Californians.


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