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Rep Ruiz responds to Palm Springs letter criticizing ‘unequal’ distribution of CARES ACT funds

On Tuesday, the city of Palm Springs sent out a letter criticizing the state's distribution of the $500 million CARES act funds.

City officials said that California's 13 largest cities received between $85 and $174 per resident while cities like Palm Springs are receiving just $12.28 per resident.

"To say to the public that Palm Springs residents, and residents of the more than 400 smaller cities representing 72% of California’s population, are only worth $12 per resident while residents of the largest cities are worth between $85 to $174 is outrageous and deeply offensive," said Palm Springs Mayor Geoff Kors.

The letter was sent out to various local and state leaders, including Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz. Ruiz spoke with News Channel 3's Peter Daut responding to the critique.

"Well, I think I can understand why. First of all, Palm Springs in particular took a big economic hit due to its reliance on the tourism industry, Ruiz said.

The city of Palm Springs reported a $47 million shortfall due to the sharp decline in tourism brought about by the pandemic.

Ruiz also said another issue was that the CARES Act did not have direct funding for cities with less than 500,000 people

"So that means that all the cities in Riverside County did not get direct funding. They got indirect funding through the state and possibly through the county through the CARES act, but they still need a lot more," Ruiz said.

Ruiz said he was surprised to learn that the city of Riverside received $28 million in funds from the CARES Act, that is six times more funds than all nine Coachella Valley cities combined

"That was news to me today. Of course the CARES Act, initially even before we passed it, I was going to fight to make sure that cities with less than 500,000 people get their share of funding too," Ruiz said. "That's why the Heroes Act, which I advocated for and passed the House, needs to be voted on in the Senate because we need to make sure that the firefighters, the teachers, the essential workers from cities in smaller cities less than 500,000 get some aid as well."

Ruiz also shared the latest from Washington D.C. on more financial relief for millions of Americans before the extra $600 in unemployment expires.

"I'm going to fight really hard that it does. The good news is that Senator Mitch McConnell and the Trump administration are starting to have an epiphany that millions of Americans are about to fall off the unemployment cliff. So, they are having conversations of what their aid package consists of. That means that they will have to negotiate with House leadership which has already passed the Heroes Act, which is already a blueprint of what our families, our businesses and our cities need, and that's why it is so imperative that we turn our focus to the Senate so they can pass the Heroes Act and give an extra stimulus check to extend the unemployment benefit and to make sure that cities like Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Indio, throughout my district, get the funds they need to help pay the teachers, the first responders, and law enforcement," Ruiz said.

Ruiz discussed the latest on his on burn pits, with more of his legislation being passed by the House today.

"When we talk about people who are at risk of dying, we are talking about people who have cancers, respiratory illnesses, auto immune diseases, and these are exactly the kinds of illnesses that our veterans and service members who have been exposed to burn pits are succumbing to right now or are becoming permanently disabled," Ruiz said. "I've introduced a package of bills that will help the veterans get the timely diagnosis, the appropriate care, identify those that are at risk of getting cancers and respiratory illnesses that will expand the burn pit registry act, and find gaps in the research by the Department of Defense and we passed that bill today which included my 4 bills, which are set to be passed in the Senate and become law by the President on top of the other bills that I've gotten signed into law for our burn pits. It's just not right that our veterans are not being recognized for their respiratory illnesses, the cancers that they are succumbing to like Jennifer, a resident in Cathedral City who died of pancreatic cancer due to her exposure from the toxic fumes from these military burn pits and so we need to stand up for them and these bills will help get them relief in the timely care that they need."

Ruiz is referring to Jennifer Kepner, a local veteran who fought to expose the unknown dangers of burn pits. Kepner died of pancreatic cancer in October 2017 at the age of 39.

Watch our full report with Jennifer Kepner (Sept. 2017)

Last year, two burn pits provisions calling for the implementation of a plan to end the use of burn pits and provide a comprehensive list of all locations where military burn pits have been used.

President Trump signed those provisions, authored by Ruiz, into law in December.

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