Cities, towns call for more federal COVID-19 relief funds for small municipalities

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Cities, towns and villages around the country are expecting to have to cut public services and implement layoffs or furloughs because of the pandemic and local leaders said the federal government needs to provide more funding to help at the local level.

The National League of Cities (NLC) and the U.S. Conference of Mayors surveyed more than 2,000 local municipalities and found that 88 percent are expecting to face a budget shortfall, according to the survey released Tuesday.

More than half of the cities expect the economic strain from COVID-19 to affect public services like law enforcement.

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"If you look at what cities do, we are the core function of local government,” said Joe Buscaino, NLC President and President Pro Tempore for Los Angeles City Council. “Police response, fire response, parks, making sure our streets are paved."

Right now, only cities with more than 500,000 people can apply for direct federal funding to help deal with the impact of the pandemic.

"To the virus, it doesn't matter how many zeros you have in a population,” Buscaino said. “The fact of the matter is COVID-19 is impacting cities, towns and villages on the ground."

Every state will get more than $1 billion in relief funds but it’s unclear if smaller municipalities will be able to dip into their states’ funds.

There are 16 states that do not have a single municipality with more than 500,000 people.

"If we’re in this together to battle this crisis and ensure that our local economies get back to life, we need to make sure that the federal government has equitable resources for all cities across this country,” Buscaino said.

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