Newsom withholding coronavirus funds from 2 Central Valley cities defying state orders by allowing businesses to open

California
People gather around a police car to watch the Atwater City Council meeting on television outside City Hall in Atwater on July 27, 2020. (Andrew Kuhn/The Merced Sun-Star via AP)

People gather around a police car to watch the Atwater City Council meeting on television outside City Hall in Atwater on July 27, 2020. (Andrew Kuhn/The Merced Sun-Star via AP)

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Gov. Gavin Newsom for the first time is using his new powers to withhold money from two cities in California’s Central Valley that are defying state health orders by allowing all businesses to open.

The state is withholding nearly $65,000 from Atwater and more than $35,000 from Coalinga.

It’s just the first part of $2.5 billion that cities and counties risk losing if they don’t toe the line on coronavirus safeguards.

Officials in the two cities say they won’t give in.

Atwater’s mayor says the governor is abandoning the small city even as he devotes more resources and federal money to combat a virus surge in the Central Valley. 

In May, Atwater declared itself a “sanctuary” from California’s stay-at-home order, with officials agreeing not to enforce closures at any business or church that decided to reopen before being allowed to by the state.

Newsom on Monday announced that more funds and support will be sent to the Central Valley, saying the area has been particularly hard hit amid the pandemic. 

He directed $52 million to be invested in eight counties in the region: San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern.

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