Why coronavirus will crush essential services in smaller cities without federal help

Smaller cities and towns face a dire fiscal future because of the coronavirus, and bankruptcy is not the answer.

Why coronavirus will crush essential services in smaller cities without federal help

It was seemingly overnight that the coronavirus outbreak turned our lives upside down. Our main streets were shuttered, schools closed and everything around us came to a screeching halt.

To date, New York has had more than 340,000 cases of COVID-19, the most of any state in the country and more than any other nation in the world. As Americans were called to stay inside, our homes were transformed into offices, schools, movie theaters and playgrounds.

But staying home is not an option for everyone. In the face of an unprecedented enemy, it has been our first responders, local Emergency Management Services, nurses, doctors and all those who help them get to work who have battled COVID-19 on the front lines. These essential workers put their health and safety at risk not only to treat those infected but also to prevent further spread throughout our nation.

And it has come at a steep price.

Our towns, villages and other localities, which support so many of these essential workers and services, have been left to foot the bill. In light of historic budgetary shortfalls and lost revenue caused by COVID-19, they’re facing a dire fiscal future, and bankruptcy is not the answer.

Large cities already received help

The CARES Act, signed into law last month, provided $150 billion in funding for states and local communities, but there’s a catch. The funding only went to government units serving populations of more than 500,000, which left thousands of smaller towns and rural communities across the country without any support.

During our nation’s time of need, essential workers from these localities have provided services day in and day out. Now it’s time to make sure they have what they need to sustain themselves moving forward.

Christine MacNeil puts on supplies she will use to limit her exposure to the coronavirus at her home in Pine Plains, N.Y. on March 18, 2020.  MacNeil is a registered nurse with the Dutchess County Medical Reserve Corps.

That’s why we’ve paired up with our colleagues in the Senate to introduce the Direct Support for Communities Act, the only bipartisan, bicameral solution, that would ensure every county, city, town and village in the country receives the federal funding it needs, regardless of size.

Counties would get half of funding

This legislation, a part of ongoing coronavirus relief negotiations, requires funding for localities be split into two equal pots: one for cities, towns and villages and one for counties. Of the funding allocated for cities, towns and villages, 70% would go to Community Development Block Grant-designated entitlement communities, and the remaining 30% would be allocated across non-CDBG communities based on population. County funding would be allocated based on population unless the county was a CDBG-entitlement community and would receive more funding under the CDBG formula.

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The Direct Support for Communities Act buttresses communities of all sizes’ ability to continue providing essential services from public health to sanitation workers to teachers without going bankrupt and taking our national economy down with it. We must continue working to finish the fight against COVID-19, but we must also ensure that there is a life to return to on the other side.

Congressman Antonio Delgado represents New York’s 19th Congressional District. Congressman Lee Zeldin represents New York’s 1st Congressional District.

Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/05/14/coronavirus-wreck-small-cities-budgets-without-federal-help-column/5190771002/

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