Despite Rising Cases and Withheld Funds, Central Valley Cities Continue Their Defiance

Three months ago, Atwater declared itself a “sanctuary city” for businesses. It would not enforce stay-at-home orders or business closures imposed by the county or state. The state has since withheld $64,833 in federal emergency coronavirus relief funds from the Merced County town. It could withhold over $300,000 more.

The lost funds aren't Atwater’s only problem. When it first declared itself a business sanctuary, it only had 12 cases. Today, the town of 30,000 has over 800 positives. Merced County and the entire Central Valley have become COVID19 hotspots, raising concerns from top state and federal officials.

Coalinga is in a similar boat. After it passed a resolution declaring all businesses essential, the state halted the first allocation of federal funds to the city, which come out to around $36,000.

But the cities won’t be scrapping their resolutions any time soon.

“They have tried to put a gun to our heads to make us fold,” said Atwater Mayor Paul Creighton. “They want our citizens to feel scared and vulnerable. Don’t be. They want to increase political heat or we become the next victim in a long line of victims in today’s cancel culture.”

Anti-vaccine groups like the Freedom Angels have rallied outside Atwater City Hall encouraging them to stay the course.

Coalinga also recently reaffirmed its resolution declaring all businesses essential. City Manager Marissa Trejo told the Los Angeles Times that the city asked the state to participate in a virtual City Council meeting to discuss rescinding the resolution. It reportedly declined.



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