Michigan mayors from both sides of the aisle joined together Friday to urge federal lawmakers to send aid to municipalities struggling in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rust Belt mayors from cities in the battleground states ofMichigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania want the next stimulus bill from Congress to support cities like Lansing and Rochester Hills, especially since the last one only provided money for cities and counties with a population of 500,000 or more, such as Detroit.
But additional aid for state and local governments has been a sticking point in the drawn-out negotiations between Democrats and the White House in Washington, which appeared to stall Friday afternoon.
President Donald Trump dismissed the idea in a Friday tweet referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“Pelosi and Schumer only interested in Bailout Money for poorly run Democrat cities and states. Nothing to do with China Virus! Want one trillion dollars. No interest. We are going a different way!” Trump wrote.
Bryan Barnett, the Republican mayor of Rochester Hills, pushed back against the contention raised by some in his party that communities would use the aid in “inappropriate ways to cover past mistakes.”
“Our city is AAA-bond rated,” he said. “We’ve been well-run, conservatively run, and we’re in the middle of a financial mess because of COVID.”
Thirty percent of Rochester Hills’ budget is at risk of being slashed if no federal aid is sent to help, Barnett said. The city has already resorted to layoffs and furloughs.
In Lansing, the $144 million general fund budget was cut by $12.5 million, Democratic Mayor Andy Schor said.
“We had to reduce our rainy-day fund, but moving forward that’s not going to be an option,” Schor said. “We are now down to a dangerously low level.”
More than 300 mayors sent a letter Wednesday to Trump requesting $250 billion in direct federal aid to all cities.
Mayors have been pushing for federal help since the March passage of the CARES Act COVID-19 stimulus package, which gave money to 36 municipalities with populations exceeding 500,000.
Detroit, the only city in Michigan to receive funding, got $116.9 million. Counties with large populations were also eligible for funds. In Michigan, Wayne County was allocated $188 million, Oakland County received $219 million, Macomb County received $152.5 million and Kent County received $114.6 million, according to a report last month by the Department of the Treasury Office of Inspector General.
Michigan overall received $3.9 billion as part of the $150 billion federal stimulus package passed in March.
Detroit also received $31 million to support residents by covering back rent, stopping evictions and housing Detroit’s homeless. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in early June said he had requested additional dollars to help the city.
Duggan has said he plans to use the city’s surplus funding, lay off part-timers and reduce pay and hours of some other city employees to deal with a $348 million deficit in the current and next fiscal year due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The Democratic-controlled House has approved the HEROES Act, which would provide $1 trillion to cities and states to help them make up for tax revenue lost because of the pandemic. But the GOP Senate leadership’s HEALS Act doesn’t provide funds specifically targeted for smaller city governments.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said his proposed package provides $105 billion for local and state governments in the form of aid for schools.
He previously suggested that bankruptcy protections would be an option for states hit hard by the coronavirus.
Millions of state and local government jobs are at stake, including those of firefighters, police, 911 call centers, public health, school teachers and safety inspectors, said Michigan U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a member of the Democratic leadership in the Senate.
“I had one police leader in Michigan say to me that the only people who I see are trying to ‘defund the police’ are Senator McConnell and President Trump,” Stabenow said.
Friday’s jobs report showed 1.8 million jobs were added in July, a smaller increase than June’s record addition of 4.8 million jobs. There have now been 20 straight weeks of unemployment filings topping 1 million, ABC reported.
“Today’s jobs report that was released only underscores how far we have to go to recover from this pandemic,” Louisville, Kentucky, Mayor Greg Fisher said.
“We believe today’s numbers reflect some people coming back to work most of their old jobs, but we remain deeply concerned about the fate of the economy as the coronavirus continues to spread.”
Staff Writer Melissa Nann Burke contributed
Read or Share this story: https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2020/08/07/michigan-mayors-tell-congress-send-us-covid-relief-cash/3319901001/