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Rural communities must wait for federal funds

Published: Apr. 20, 2020 at 6:46 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The economic fallout from COVID-19 is hitting many in our state hard and rural communities are facing more funding challenges than urban areas.

“Of course they’ve been hit hard. Their businesses have been decimated. We don’t have the numbers New York does, but we still have the side effects of this virus,” said Rep.Tom O’Halleran, Yavapai County (D).

Federal funding through the CARES act is headed to states, cities and counties—including in Arizona and Pima County.

“Hopefully any week now we’ll get those contracts from the feds,” said Daniel Tylutki, community development for Pima County.

Larger communities and counties like Maricopa County, Pima County and just recently Pinal County, can get these federal funds directly from the federal government, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website, but that means smaller counties and cities are left in the dark for the time being.

The government divvies out funds based on population to counties and states. Each state gets money directly from the federal government, in addition to the larger cities and counties within that state that also qualify for the funds. Counties like Santa Cruz County can apply for funds from the CARES Act through the state, once it get its money. Rep. O’Halleran said that extra step and waiting could be detrimental. These funds can be used to support food pantry expansions, house homeless and more.

“The direct funding is critical right. Why should our rural communities and our tribes have to wait for the state to process it all to eventually get it out to us?” said O’Halleran.

In those rural counties, they’re not sure how, when, or if the state will give them funds. Craig Sullivan, with the County Supervisors Association of Arizona, said there is no direction for states, or small counties, when it comes to if, when and how they will get the funds.

“There’s been an open question about how smaller jurisdiction can be compensated,” said Sullivan.

Rep. O’Halleran sent a letter to Congressional leadership asking for funds to be sent directly to rural communities. Representative Ann Kirkpatrick is sponsoring proud cosponsor of H.R.6467, the Coronavirus Community Relief Act, which would provide $250 billion for smaller communities. She sent us this statement saying in part, “there is much more to be done to ensure our rural communities are getting the emergency relief they need to fight this pandemic.”

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