Washington, D.C. — Today, the National League of Cities (NLC) convened leaders and local officials from Louisiana, Alabama and Oregon to discuss the urgent need for federal relief to cities impacted by recent natural disasters across the country. The local leaders discussed the dual challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters on their municipalities, how the recent hurricanes and wildfires have exacerbated the financial strains that their cities are facing, and the critical actions that Congress and the federal government must take to ensure a sustainable economic recovery.
To watch the full press conference, click here.
“With the latest proposal, we’re looking at about $179 billion to divide among municipalities, counties and parishes – that’s something we’ve all been fighting for to provide funding to address the loss of revenues. There are also talks about increasing flexibility for the current CARES Act funds that have been sent to states. Today is the last application period for the final tranche of money for the $525 million that went to locals, and we’re out – so if the only solution is flexibility in the current CARES Act funds for loss of revenue, then we’re out of luck on that,” John Gallagher, Executive Director, Louisiana Municipal Association said. “This is not a handout, this is an issue caused by COVID that we didn’t anticipate coming up. We need help to replenish this loss of revenue.”
“We need Congress, as a whole, to do their job right now because people need help – Americans need help right now. This is not a Lake Charles, Hillsboro, or Gulf Shores problem, this is an American problem – and I mean that very universally with COVID-19, because there isn’t a single municipality in this country that hasn’t suffered. The three mayors here today that are suffering from natural disasters, we have to be advocates for each other here,” Lake Charles, Louisiana Mayor Nic Hunter said. “Right now, 2020 has been detrimental from COVID-19, but it has also been an absolutely historic and catastrophic year for natural disasters. I appeal to Congress to not only think about Hurricane Laura, but when you look at natural disasters in 2020 for the United States of America, we have had a historic year, and that is worthy of a congressional response.”
“Two of the federal reserve chairmen in testimony before Congress mentioned that, during the Great Recession, had Congress put more money into local governments to help the economy get back, it would have shaved years off that recovery process, and we would have been back where we were much sooner,” Alabama League of Municipalities Executive Director Greg Cochran said. “Our motto is that cities and towns across the state are the foundation of our state’s economy, and that’s where people live, work and play. We’ve got to put those resources back into those communities to be shared by the citizenry. It’s not putting money into the coffer of the mayor’s budget, it’s putting resources in play to help our communities rebound from the pandemic and these natural disasters affecting all of us so that people can get back to living their lives normally, and the economy can get back to where it was.”
“Congress should recognize that income loss – that we have no opportunity to recover from – is a major impact on us as a municipality trying to offer all the services and support that our businesses need. If you make those funds eligible for us, please understand there is only one city in this state that has 500,000 people or more, the rest of us are well below that. Congress needs to make sure that the eligibility for this money goes down to the city level at the lower end – don’t just restrict it to the bigger cities and municipalities because we need it, too,” Gulf Shores, Alabama Mayor Robert Craft said. “With regard to cost sharing of FEMA relief funds, it should be something other than a 75-25% split – 100% would be great, but 90-10% at the worst. If you combine those two things together and get us some relief, then we’ll do the rest.”
“’Unprecedented’ is an understatement for this year. If it were just a one-two punch, that would be one thing, but we’ve really gone through a one-two-three-four punch. It began with COVID, it went into the economic crisis, we had social unrest, and the wildfires have decimated a lot of our communities. Throughout this, we’re trying to figure it out together, pulling together the state and the local, and hoping for this federal aid to come through to help our cities that are just in tragic shape right now,” League of Oregon Cities Executive Director Mike Cully said. “In the absence of any federal funding coming our way, I have been repeatedly impressed by the partnerships that have formed to get things done. The public-private partnerships that have formed out of this crisis, especially this latest crisis, figuring out how to work together – both the state and the local, the private sectors and the public sectors – it’s been something to see, and that’s just so Oregon, that’s exactly what Oregon is all about.”
“Congress needs to make sure that we are getting the pandemic relief that we need, but also the natural disaster support that’s necessary because it is hard to move forward when you don’t have a starting point anymore,” Hillsboro, Oregon Mayor Steve Callaway said. “Cities are required to have a balanced budget every year, and we also make it a priority to have a reserve. But there’s no size of a reserve that we can carry forward that would address this kind of catastrophic natural disaster. Providing stopgap funding for those cities that have been devastated by the natural disasters is going to be critical, because at least that gets you back to a starting point and then begins to help you move forward. We need that help, and we need it with the sense of urgency that our local residents are feeling.”
The National League of Cities (NLC) is the voice of America’s cities, towns and villages, representing more than 200 million people. NLC works to strengthen local leadership, influence federal policy and drive innovative solutions. Stay connected with NLC on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.