Manteca ratepayers won’t get stuck covering $356,912 that customers were unable to pay in municipal water bills due to financial hardships created by the pandemic.
The city secured that funding and plans to apply for grants to cover unpaid wastewater bills that are attributed to the pandemic when that application process opens next month.
“My priority is to obtain any funding that is available to the city to help our residents and to be fiscally responsible in doing so,” noted City Manager Toby Wells.
The California Legislature allocated $985 million in federal funding for the creation of the Arrearage Payment Program to provide relief to community water and wastewater systems for unpaid bills related to the pandemic.
Wells and the current senior municipal management inherited roughly $2 million in uncollected debt owed to the city’s wastewater, water, and solid waste funds.
While most of that is attributed to disarray in the finance department in keeping on top of collections, a sizeable chunk is the result of the decision not to shut off services to Manteca households who suddenly found themselves out of work due to lockdowns imposed by the state to counter COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
Municipal staff is staging a community workshop on Tuesday, Feb. 22, to prioritize the use of federal American Rescue Plan Act the city received to assist with the pandemic response and financial shortfalls lockdowns caused.
Manteca is receiving roughly $14 million.
Previously city officials said part of the money could be used to backfill any general fund shortfall that lockdowns may have caused by reducing sales tax revenue. The general fund took a $4 million hit — based on the latest figures the city made public — during the pandemic. This is a revenue shortfall the city covered by dipping into general fund reserves.
Then there are overtime costs tied to the pandemic, $5,000 bonuses for workers for staying on the job during the pandemic, the $400 reward city staff got for getting free COVID shots, and the bonus personal time off the city is giving certain employees that faithfully reported to work during the pandemic that the federal COVID funds could cover.
If the federal funds are used for those purposes the city would still have a sizeable amount left over to direct to other purposes.
The final decision on how to spend the COVID funds will be up to the City Council.
For the latest information on COVID-19, with details on what the City of Manteca is doing to keep residents safe, visit: https://www.ci.manteca.ca.us/covid19 and follow the City of Manteca on Facebook.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com