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By Congressman Mike Levin

We all know that Americans need more relief to get through this pandemic. Millions of people are unemployed, many families can barely cover rent or put food on the table, and small businesses are struggling to survive.

We need to get schools more resources so they can reopen quickly and safely, and we need to make immediate investments in vaccine distribution so we can put this pandemic behind us.

You’ve probably heard of the American Rescue Plan, the latest relief bill from President Joe Biden and Congress. I recently voted to pass that bill, because it provides much of the relief that Americans desperately need.

Americans making $75,000 or less will receive $1,400 in direct payments, $25 billion will go to help restaurants stay open, $130 billion will go to K-12 schools to get kids back in the classroom, and much more.

All of this is extremely important, but there’s one more piece of this bill that you might not have heard about: direct funding for smaller cities like those in our community.

In last year’s CARES Act, only cities larger than 500,000 received direct aid. Now smaller cities will receive direct aid, too. Sure, it may not sound like the most exciting piece of this bill, but it’s going to help San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, and Dana Point keep city employees on the job and continue to provide essential public services that we all take for granted.

Our cities have seen significant revenue losses because of this pandemic. Tax revenue from economic activity like tourism has taken a drastic hit. As a result, some cities have been forced to cut services, lay off public servants, and postpone or cancel new projects.

As The Capistrano Dispatch reported, San Juan Capistrano had to furlough workers for two weeks over the holidays, meaning some of our neighbors who work for the city went unpaid over Christmas.

This is why I have pushed for smaller cities to receive direct federal assistance. Last year, every mayor in my District—including those in South Orange County—joined me in calling for direct aid.

Both Democratic and Republican mayors said, “We need the federal government to step up. We are calling on Congress and the President to provide direct aid to our cities. … The health and well-being of our people depend on it.”

After nearly a year of bipartisan advocacy, I am glad to say that help is on the way. The House-passed bill includes an estimated $6.3 million for Dana Point, $8.8 million for San Clemente, and $6.7 million for San Juan Capistrano. We still need to make sure that funding stays in the final version of the bill, but I am confident that will happen.

Our local cities should finally receive the funding they need to maintain the essential services that we depend on and pay all of the public workers who make sure our cities run smoothly. Help is on the way, and it’s coming to our community.

U.S. Representative Mike Levin represents the 49th Congressional District, which includes the South Orange County cities of Dana Point, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano. He was reelected for a second term in 2020 and resides in San Juan Capistrano with his wife and two children.

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