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Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock

Money trail: California’s pandemic riches

Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock

The pandemic has been a surprising – and unprecedented – boon for California government in the form of money. Lots of it. The state has gotten more than $600 billion in federal stimulus funds with roughly 40% of it going to, or passing through, the state government. Higher than expected tax revenue also created enormous budget surpluses for Sacramento lawmakers to spend.

Officials have called the money transformative. But the funds have been flying out the door with limited oversight and, too often, little transparency. Take the schools. There is no central state or federal database showing where local education agencies are spending the $33.5 billion in state and federal relief funds they are getting. Some of the biggest districts in the state won’t say how they’re spending the money. (We know because we asked.)

CalMatters is examining this historic infusion of cash into state and local government. Who’s getting rich? What’s changing? And are the funds being used as lawmakers envisioned?

— By Robert Lewis