Bipartisan Mayors Demand More Federal Support in Pandemic
Washington, D.C. (May 30, 2020)—Yesterday, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, chaired by Rep. James E. Clyburn, held a briefing with mayors across the country where they stressed the need for additional federal funding such as the Heroes Act and a comprehensive national strategy to safely reopen local communities.
“Local community leaders across the country, Democrats and Republicans, need strong federal leadership to help them combat this deadly threat,” Chairman Clyburn said. “Communities need federal help to get the protective equipment and testing supplies they need to protect their front-line medical workers and essential employees. We need the federal government to use its existing authorities to efficiently, effectively and equitably get resources to the states and cities that need them most.”
The panel included Mayor Jenny Durkan of Seattle, Washington; Mayor Stephen K. Benjamin of Columbia, South Carolina, Mayor Bryan K. Barnett of Rochester Hills, Michigan; Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, Georgia; Mayor Mary Jane Scott of Mangum, Oklahoma, Mayor Lenny B. Curry of Jacksonville, Florida; and Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, California.
As the country marked 100,000 lives lost, the Mayors stressed the urgent need for federal funding to address looming budget shortfalls, for federal support to procure personal protective equipment and testing supplies, and for a comprehensive federal strategy to prevent a second outbreak.
Mayors provided the following information:
Republican and Democratic mayors support the Heroes Act to provide cities desperately needed federal funding and prevent critical cuts in services.
- Mayor Barnett, a Republican and the President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, explained: “My message today is straightforward and urgent. American cities are still being devastated by this pandemic, and it is imperative that Congress and the Administration take swift action before the beginning of the next fiscal year, which for many cities begins on July 1.” Mayor Barnett emphasized, “What we’re experiencing across our country is not a big city problem. It’s an every city problem.”
- Mayor Benjamin stated that without direct federal aid, cities will be forced to scale back essential services: “Simply put, absent flexible federal fiscal assistance, state and local government will be forced to lay off employees, cut services, and take other measures that undermine any countercyclical fiscal and monetary actions taken at the federal level.”
- Mayor Bottoms explained, “As a result of this pandemic, we are facing a revenue shortfall of nearly $35 to $40 million in this year’s budget,” noting that “we are squeezing every single dime.”
- Mayor Garcetti warned that without significant federal aid to cities, layoffs by local governments “will come in a couple months, and I guarantee you it will be the biggest bump in the unemployment numbers, as we reopen, it will more than wash over the progress.”
Cities need more federal support to procure protective equipment and testing supplies.
- Mayor Durkan explained that “even today, we have not been able to get adequate testing for our residents in Seattle.” She called on the federal government to “use the Defense Production Act to aggressively produce and distribute testing kits, PPE, facial coverings, and other critical supplies.” She explained, “Mayor Garcetti and I shouldn’t be bidding against each other, driving up costs and risking lives. End the scavenger hunt, Hunger Games process, especially as we try to reopen and prepare for the next wave of the virus.”
Cities need a coordinated federal strategy to safely reopen.
- Mayor Bottoms explained, “There is no playbook for this. That’s why it is important that we have a coordinated effort on behalf of our federal government to give us a framework for how we can and should proceed as cities across this country.”
- Mayor Durkan noted that in the absence of strong federal leadership, “Fifty states with fifty different battle plans will cause more death. Decisions and metrics should be transparent, equitable, and based on real science and guidance.”
The federal government must help cities prepare for a second wave.
- Mayor Garcetti explained that responding to a possible second wave of coronavirus cases in the fall requires ensuring there are enough hospital beds, increasing testing, and focusing on skilled nursing homes.
- Mayor Scott warned, “But if there is a second wave this fall, it will be devasting to our city’s ability to provide the needed services to our community. Police, fire, parks, city pool, library will all need help to survive.” Mayor Scott also explained that rural communities like hers lack the medical infrastructure to deal with future coronavirus outbreaks. She noted that her local hospital had only two ventilators, and that her city needed more federal support to keep the hospital open.