Rep. Chu Details Potential New Coronavirus Aid to City Council

Congresswoman Judy Chu

Congresswoman Judy Chu last week detailed to the City Council how cities like South Pasadena could potentially tap into the $375 billion from the $3 trillion stimulus package that are allocated to local governments.
This meeting, on Wednesday, May 13, was actually held just days before Chu joined her congressional peers in approving the $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or HEROES Act, on Friday. The potential fifth coronavirus bill, which is not expected to be approved as-is by the U.S. Senate, echoes many of the provisions in the $2 trillion CARES Act that was passed in March while fixing some of its shortcomings, according to Chu.
“We know that it’s an unprecedented time,” she said. “We have to offer unprecedented help to make sure that we can get through this pandemic.”
The City Council invited Chu to brief city officials on pandemic response at her level of government and recently brought state Sen. Anthony Portantino in for a similar rundown.
Chu said that many small cities complained that too much of the money from previous legislation went directly to cities with populations of more than 500,000 people — which includes no cities in Chu’s suburban district. In contrast, she explained, the HEROES Act would give funds to cities of all sizes, with some money allocated solely for cities with 50,000 or fewer — including South Pasadena.
The City Council expressed strong support for the bill, with Councilwoman Marina Khubesrian saying she was “breathing a sigh of relief” because of the potential aid.
However, she added that she was concerned that President Donald Trump’s administration would not ensure the funds would get where they needed to. Although Chu agreed that the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic was slow, the congresswoman said the oversight committees formed by aid packages would make sure the money was being spent properly.
Chu also said that the HEROES Act would establish a “czar” for protective equipment, allowing the federal government to purchase ventilators and masks and distribute them to state and local governments.
Additionally, Chu emphasized that the bill would help property owners, providing $75 billion to help pay mortgages and property taxes, as well as renters, with $100 billion promised in emergency rental assistance.
The aid was noted by Khubesrian, who said she had heard worries from local renters trying to keep up payments even during the eviction moratorium, as well as from property owners.
“It’s been challenging, and I think some of landlords have been very nervous because they rely on tenants paying rent so they can make their mortgage,” she said. “Oftentimes it has felt like playing tug-of-war with these two groups of folks, so I’m really happy to hear about this relief that’s coming their way.”
Like the CARES Act, the HEROES Act would also supply a stimulus check of $1,200 for eligible adults and $500 for dependents. The payments would include college-aged dependents and those who file income tax with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, which is used by undocumented immigrants.
However, Mayor Pro Tem Diana Mahmud said that there were some reports of people who had died after submitting a tax return later receiving a stimulus check from the CARES Act, asking if those incidents would be eliminated in the new bill.
Though Chu did not say whether the HEROES Act would fix those errors, she emphasized that she felt it was more important to get the funds to those who needed it, rather than force potential recipients to sort through a bureaucratic process.
She also encouraged councilmembers to write letters to their senators in support of the bill after Mayor Bob Joe noted that it would have great difficulty passing the Republican-majority Senate. The City Council had previously written to Chu announcing its support of the HEROES Act.
Chu pointed out that the part of the bill many senators were opposing was the funding for state and local governments, something she saw as ironic.
“Everybody has a state and everybody has a city that they represent, and they know how much the state and local governments are suffering,” she said. “We actually tried to get this provision in the last bill, but they were resistant. They said, ‘Maybe the next bill.’
“’So here we are — we’re at the next bill,” Chu added. “So, I think they need to hear from the localities.”