As Congress deliberates an additional COVID-19 assistance package, the National League of Cities and League of Minnesota Cities are pushing for more direct, flexible funding for cities.
More than 70% of cities, towns, and villages believe their government’s condition will worsen if Congress does not pass another COVID-19 assistance bill. That’s according to new survey data released last week by the National League of Cities (NLC).
The survey, which had responses from more over 900 municipalities, showcases the widespread effect COVID-19 is having on America’s communities. Since the start of the pandemic, on average, cities that responded to the survey have seen revenues decline by 21%.
Meanwhile additional expenditures — including those for personal protective equipment (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.
Revived stimulus talks
Last week, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, along with the House’s Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans, released a $908 billion framework in hopes of jump-starting negotiations at the leadership level regarding a COVID-19 relief package. Congress has precious few days left to pass a bill before members depart for the holidays.
The bipartisan Senate framework provides $160 billion to state, local, and tribal governments with local governments receiving approximately $25 billion. According to a congressional source, the allocation would follow the State Municipal Assistance for Response and Transition (SMART) Act, which allocates funding via three tranches — population, infection rate, and lost revenue — with the funding split evenly among the three tranches. However, the infection rate tranche would be removed in the most recent framework proposal, reallocating the money in the three tranches into two tranches with a 50/50 split.
If the SMART Act framework were used to allocate money, a set-aside would be allocated to tribal governments. Then, two-thirds of the money would go to the states, and one-third of the money would go to the counties and local governments. The one-third would be split 50/50 between the counties and local governments.
NLC and LMC voice support, urge action
After the proposal was unveiled, NLC issued a statement in support of quickly passing a package to help cities, towns, and villages. To amplify the need for additional COVID-19 assistance, NLC shared survey data with all members of Congress.
Meanwhile, LMC sent a letter to all 10 members of the Minnesota’s congressional delegation urging them to work swiftly to pass a proposal that includes flexible and direct funding for local governments in Minnesota.
- See the NLC statement on introduction of new bipartisan COVID emergency relief package
- See the LMC letter to Minnesota’s congressional delegation (pdf)