PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona cities and counties will get
$440 million in federal money to help them deal with budget issues stemming from the coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Doug Ducey announced Wednesday.
The money will come from $1.9 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds that Ducey can spend at his discretion.
Local governments saw their costs spike for police and firefighters at the same time that sales tax revenue plummeted as people stayed home to slow the spread of the virus.
There was no indication Wednesday how much money Mohave County or its three cities — Bullhead City, Kingman and Lake Havasu City — would receive.
Ducey said the cities have flexibility in how to spend the money, though the federal government requires that they cover expenses related to the virus.
“I don’t like it when the federal government makes governors stand in line and beg, ‘Mother may I?’” Ducey said during a discussion with several mayors. “And I don’t want to do that to our local leaders either.”
That flexibility involves some budgetary sleight of hand that the governor’s office suggested: Cities can cover their police and fire budgets with the new federal funds, freeing up that money for other uses. That’s critical because cities face large budget deficits due to business shutdowns triggered by the coronavirus.
Mayors from a half-dozen cities attended a Wednesday meeting with Ducey and outlined various ways they plan to spend the new cash. They include public safety but also promoting tourism, giving grants or loans to small businesses and business development projects.
Ducey said the state will provide up to $150 million in cash advances to cover emergency costs for which local governments, hospitals, schools, nonprofits and other organizations expect to eventually be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Some mayors and county officials have pressured Ducey for weeks to release funds to local governments. Among the most vocal were officials in Pinal County, where the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this month to begin drafting a lawsuit seeking to force Ducey’s hand.