Local Governments Are the Answer 


  • Irma Esparza Diggs
February 5, 2021 - (5 min read)

The fight is on for direct state and local aid. On Thursday, February 4th, the National League of Cities testified before two Congressional committees, educating lawmakers on the urgent need to provide emergency relief to cities, towns and villages to help rebuild America’s economy.  

First, NLC CEO and Executive DirectorClarence Anthonytestified before the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services to what city leaders need to see from Congress to help America’s communities effectively and equitably respond to the urgent needs of residents impacted by COVID-19, including critical support for housing and rental assistance programs.  

Then, Los Angeles City Councilmember and NLC Immediate Past President Joe Buscainotestified before the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to discuss how to best protect transportation workers and passengers during the ongoing public health crisis. 

Below are key excerpts from both testimonies. View the full testimonies:  

Clarence Anthony Oral Testimony Transcript | Joe Buscaino Oral Testimony Transcript | 

View the full hearing video of NLC CEO & Executive Director Clarence Anthony

View the full hearing of Councilmember & Immediate Past President Joe Buscaino

Joe Buscaino on Protecting Transportation Workers and Passengers from COVID 

“The nation’s cities are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response, and it’s clear that the health and economic crisis are not over. 

“Locals are working to keep essential services and workers moving during COVID-19, but it’s created a ripple effect of shutdowns and devastating health impacts that has docked almost every budget line in our city. 

“This year, local budgets nationally are facing a shortfall of at least $90 billion, and we’ve depleted our reserves throughout 2020 on COVID expenses, leaving little cushion. 

“To balance budgets, it’s cost the U.S. 1.3 million good government jobs, including transportation workers. In Los Angeles alone, the city’s budget is short by $600 million this year, which will wipe out our $259 million dollar reserve savings. It also leaves us with an unpaid $75 million loan to ourselves from our public works trust fund, which must be paid on July 1st, per our city charter. 

“Any relief Congress passes for cities will be used to continue to support our most valuable asset – our people. America’s communities are proud to have a dedicated and resilient workforce of professional essential workers who have kept everything running, especially those who are part of our national supply chain – like my family and friends and neighbors in my hometown community of San Pedro that work the docks at the Port of Los Angeles and those that provide transportation to our communities.” 

“Our dock workers may be essential but shouldn’t be sacrificial. We salute them as essential workers, and this Committee can honor their sacrifices by taking steps to protect them in their jobs.” 

“The fact of the matter is: cities are crying for help. If you live in a city of 5,000 population or five million population, we are on the ground zero of this pandemic.” 

“From the East coast to the West coast, when we talk about the supply chain – the goods that come through the port of Los Angeles and Long Beach, they hit every Congressional district. So, common guidance moving forward from the federal government would be helpful – on protections and vaccines for transportation workers, because it’s a global supply chain that goes across all state lines.” 

“We ask this Committee to support our transportation workers across all modes by working with us, and to help us bridge the last gap between now and substantial vaccine distribution.” 

“Members, colleagues – we must act with urgency, and we must all be prepared to tackle the important rebuilding that is ahead of us.” 

Clarence Anthony on More than a Shot in the Arm: The Need for Additional COVID-19 Stimulus 

“Today I am speaking on behalf of all those governments that have gone above and beyond to overcome the COVID-19 emergency. 

“Local elected officials are making painful budget cuts to preserve essential day-to-day operations that sustain cities as economic engines and places of opportunity. Residents are relying more than ever on the safety net programs that local governments are responsible for putting into action.” 

“Local leaders in your district will tell you – this is not a bailout. Our local communities need a partnership, and we are fighting every day.  

“The new Emergency Rental Assistance program is a reasonable response to the emerging economy-killing eviction cliff. Roughly 1 out of every 5 people are a rental in America – 40 million people are at risk. Local governments are the ones that implement these initiatives. We need support. 

“Local governments are running out of ways to paper over dramatic losses, and when that happens, declines won’t stop with new programs.” 

“If we really want our economy to get back started, it’s got to start at the local level, and get it done quickly. Our leaders are able to deal with distributions of PPE and the vaccine distribution and education. I know that our mayors and councilmembers from all rural, as well as urban communities, are ready to partner with the federal government to get us back on the right track.”

For more information and resources on NLC’s COVID-19 response activities

We Need Your Voice

Right now, direct state and local aid is included in the bill that Congressional Democrats are moving through reconciliation. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform has asked local leaders for help to make the strongest case possible. Send a letter to your Member of Congress now!

About the Author

Irma Esparza Diggs

About the Author

Irma Esparza Diggs is the Senior Executive and Director, Federal Advocacy at the National League of Cities.