New Survey Data Quantifies Pandemic’s Impact on Cities: Municipal Revenues Down Twenty-One Percent While Expenses Increase Seventeen Percent

December 1, 2020 - (3 min read)

71% of cities, towns and villages believe their government’s condition will worsen if Congress does not pass another stimulus

Washington, D.C. – The National League of Cities (NLC) today released new survey data that quantifies the pandemic’s impact on America’s cities, towns and villages. On average, cities have seen revenues decline by 21% since the beginning of the pandemic, while additional expenditures – including PPE, remote work technology and overtime pay for essential employees – have increased 17% over the same time period. This adds up to a budget gap of about $90 billion for 2020 alone. As COVID-19 cases continue to rise and overwhelm local resources around the country, 71% of cities indicated their government’s condition will worsen and 28% of cities indicated their government’s condition will remain significantly impacted if Congress does not pass another stimulus package that includes aid to cities.

Of the over 900 municipalities surveyed, approximately 70% indicated their financial health has been negatively impacted by COVID-19, with 90% of those experiencing decreased revenues and 76% having to take on additional expenses. This affects cities of all sizes – 89% of large cities, 71% of mid-sized cities, and 52% of small cities indicated their governments will face significant challenges in providing necessary services to their residents.

Following the release of the new survey results, NLC Executive Director and CEO Clarence E. Anthony issued the following statement:

“The latest report from our cities, towns and villages across the country is a sobering reminder that municipalities everywhere are continuing to suffer from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and that the financial hardships our local leaders are experiencing will continue into 2021 and beyond. Many of our essential municipal workers who have worked to protect residents since the beginning of the pandemic have lost or are at risk of losing their jobs, crippling the ability of our nation’s municipalities to respond to the ongoing public health and economic crises facing our communities.

“It is more critical than ever that in the final weeks that Congress remains in session this year, our leaders in Washington step up to deliver the aid our municipal leaders have been seeking for months to avoid financial catastrophe in our nation’s hometowns. We are urging congressional leadership to swiftly return to the negotiating table and advance a comprehensive relief package that honors our local heroes and ensures local governments can continue to safely lead our communities through the pandemic.”

Additionally, the latest NLC survey found that:

  • 29%, or an estimated 6,000 cities, towns and villages, did not receive any aid or funding from the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund.
  • Only 7% of cities that received CRF funds indicated that the funds adequately addressed their revenue shortfalls and unforeseen expenses.
  • 37% of cities indicated they’ve made cuts their municipal workforce, including hiring freezes, wage holds, layoffs, furloughs, reduced hours or forced early retirement of municipal employees.

To view NLC’s infographic summarizing the results of the latest survey, click here. To view NLC’s one-pager, click here.

For more information on the survey’s methodology, click here.

NLC launched the Cities Are Essential campaign in May, calling on the federal government to ensure there is flexible, direct funding relief provided to America’s municipalities in response to the coronavirus pandemic.


The National League of Cities (NLC) is the voice of America’s cities, towns and villages, representing more than 200 million people across the country. NLC works to strengthen local leadership, influence federal policy and drive innovative solutions. Stay connected with NLC on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.