The City of Blythe partnered with Capitol Matrix to conduct a study to quantify the economic impact of the proposed closure of Chuckawalla Valley State Prison (CVSP) on the City of Blythe–resulting in the report: Economic and Fiscal Impacts of the Proposed Closure of Chuckawalla Valley State Prison. The economic impact report also compares the financial impacts of Chuckawalla’s closure to Blythe versus the impacts the closure of the California Rehabilitation Center (CRC) would have on the City of Norco and surrounding communities.
The main report findings show the proposed closure would have an impact on the employment of Blythe residents, revenue for local businesses, City government and the Palo Verde Unified School District.
Per the report, the proposed closure would have major impacts on the local community and economy. Of the estimated $157 million Chuckawalla would spend in the 2023-24 fiscal year, an estimated $65 million or 41% would benefit people and businesses in Blythe, with the rest going to CVSP employees and businesses located outside of the community.
The $65 million that benefits people and businesses in Blythe has an outsized impact on the City. The report estimates that the spending directly and indirectly supports 719 jobs and $61 million in labor income in the Blythe community. The jobs supported by CVSP represent 12% of total jobs held by Blythe residents. Due to the relatively high wages of CVSP employees, wages supported by CVSP represent 22% of the total wages in Blythe. Concluding that the elimination of these jobs will sharply raise the unemployment rate, reduce average household incomes and put severe pressure on local businesses. The City’s poverty rate, which is already double the average of Riverside County, is expected to further increase.
City government would also see major impacts, such as a $2.9 million decline in its general purpose revenues due to reductions in sales taxes, property taxes, utility user taxes, vehicle license fees, and other taxes and fees.
There would be significant impacts to the Palo Verde Unified School District as well. It would expect to see a loss of $4.9 million due to reductions in school enrollment caused by loss of students associated with CVSP employees’ families, inmates’ families residing in the community and other residents facing job losses due to the proposed closure.
“The potential closure of Chuckawalla Valley State Prison would have severe impacts on the City of Blythe and surrounding areas as it is a significant part of the local economy,” said Capitol Matrix’s Chief Economist Brad Williams.
“It is clear from the report that many residents and local business owners would lose their source of income as a result of the proposed closure. As California Rehabilitation Center’s closure would have only minimal impacts on the surrounding communities, it should be strongly considered,” explained City of Blythe Vice Mayor Johnny Rodriguez. “The closure of CRC would have a modest, limited economic impact on Norco and western Riverside County,” agreed Norco Mayor Robin Grundmeyer.
CVSP accounts for nearly one-fifth of economic activity in the Blythe region while CRC in Norco represents a miniscule share of economic activity; the closure of CVSP would have more severe impacts than closing CRC would have on its nearby communities. Unlike Chuckawalla, CRC is located on land that is highly valued for economic development. Any loss in economic stimulus from the closure of its prison will be quickly offset by the redevelopment of the land.
To read the full economic and fiscal impact report, visit the Save Chuck website.