Mayors Speak: Aid to Local Governments Critical to Protecting Economies Across the Nation

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  • Local Leader Voices
August 24, 2020

Mayors from across the country are calling on Congress and the White House to return to the negotiating table and deliver critical aid to local governments in the next COVID-19 relief package. While Congress is in recess, mayors from cities large and small are continuing to confront unprecedented budget crunches due to revenue shortfalls and increased costs caused by the ongoing pandemic. While some local leaders have indicated they will have to furlough or lay off essential municipal employees, others are being forced to delay or cancel infrastructure projects that create jobs and support local economic activity.

Mayors from Georgia, Pennsylvania, New York and Louisiana have spoken out in recent weeks about the urgent need for Congress to resume negotiations and prioritize direct federal aid to cities, towns and villages everywhere in order to ensure that the revenue shortfalls U.S. municipalities are facing do not hamper the national economic recovery:

“If we were to have to present a budget at this moment, we would be $100 million short… If we were to lay off 400 employees across all departments, 10% reduction through every department, that would make up around $25 million out of that $100 million. It wouldn’t even come close to filling the hole. It’s the reality of where we are…We’ve refinanced bonds where we’ve been able to with the favorable market, but without an ability — almost a bridge — to get us to where we’ll need to be over these next couple of years, what you’re going to see in cities is more cuts to essential services and to critical projects than cities rushing to borrow money in order to try to make up this lost revenue.”William Peduto, Mayor of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Municipal League Press Conference

 “We are going to be prioritizing things are mandated and aren’t going to be prioritizing quality of life issues. Like many of our sister cities across the country, COVID is not the only emergency that we are dealing with. We are one emergency away from complete financial catastrophe. We have worked so diligently, and the resources we have put away to create a rainy-day fund for emergencies will not last us through a recession or in combination with any other emergency.”Danene Sorace, Mayor of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Municipal League Press Conference

“I would like to see Congress recognize the efficiency and effectiveness of our local cities, particularly in Georgia, at supplying services to our residents and businesses, and how the loss of revenue adversely affects our ability to do so. These revenue declines affect real people and real businesses. Our cities have similar needs to businesses for revenue support, and I hope that Congress will consider that in this next round of funding.” Jim Thornton, Mayor of LaGrange, Georgia and Georgia Municipal Association First Vice President, Georgia Municipal Association Press Conference 

“To our representatives in Congress: Let us get to the table with you on federal funding. We’re the boots on the ground. When there’s an issue, most people call us. We know what our communities need, so let us be at the table with you to discuss that…Direct federal aid is supporting and sustaining every individual citizen that lives in our cities and counties. It’s critical and life-saving for some of these communities. We’re in such uncertain times right now that we need everybody at the table working as closely together as we can to make sure that Georgia does not suffer financially any worse than we already have.”Julie Smith, Mayor of Tifton, Georgia and Georgia Municipal Association Second Vice President, Georgia Municipal Association Press Conference

“Throughout this pandemic, our essential employees – our police officers, our firefighters, our sanitation workers – have been delivering the services and helping our communities and our country through this pandemic. When you look at what’s contributing to the financial challenges, it is literally a perfect storm of revenue constraints. The only way that we solve this issue is through the federal government providing direct aid to local governments…It is our essential workers that have helped us through this, it’s now time for Washington to step up and take care of the essential workers that have been taking care of all of us. There’s too much at stake to walk away. Now is the time to come back, to sit down, to rise above politics, and to meet this unprecedented crisis with unprecedented support.”Ben Walsh, Mayor of Syracuse, New York, New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials (NYCOM) Press Conference

“Our municipality, along with all our local businesses, are holding on by our fingertips. I join my fellow mayors in urging support from our elected officials to provide us a lifeline – we are desperately in need of it…We need to join together nationally if we ever hope to return to a level of economic stability that we enjoyed pre-pandemic. I strongly urge that direct aid to municipalities be a component of the next aid package. We are all struggling, and survival will be dependent on this assistance.”RuthAnn Loveless, Mayor of Hamilton, New York, New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials (NYCOM) Press Conference

“For our small businesses to come back fully within the City of Ruston, they’ve got to have essential infrastructure and services in place. We cut our budget this year by $3.5 million dollars, most of that was for infrastructure projects that we could have done, so I would say to Congress: please help us. We wouldn’t have had to cut a single person from our payroll if Congress had done for cities what they did for businesses. If we could get the same payroll protection plan that small and large businesses got, that would be a great help to us in Northeast Louisiana.” Ronny Walker, Mayor of Ruston, Louisiana, Louisiana Municipal Association Press Conference 

“The fiscal impacts of the pandemic have certainly been a punch in the gut – we expect our sales tax revenue to be down anywhere from 6 to 10 percent once it’s already said and done. We are happy to know we do expect some relief from the CARES Act, but certainly nothing to the extent that would allow us to continue on with the growth and progressive nature that we want to as a city. We need a hand up, not a handout. I do not believe this is a Kenner problem, a Lake Charles problem, a Woodworth problem or a Ruston problem – this is an American problem, and this is a municipal problem for every municipality in this country. If Congress really wants to get serious about putting people back to work, they need to be thinking long-term, not just putting a band-aid on the situation.” Mayor Nic Hunter, Mayor of Lake Charles, Louisiana, Louisiana Municipal Association Press Conference