Cities Are Essential

According to the National League of Cities (NLC), despite the massive spending bills passed by Congress designed to aid states in battling the coronavirus outbreak, “there has been no direct aid provided to the majority of cities, towns and villages.” This is particularly concerning considering that the frontline for subduing the effects of the virus occurs primarily at the local level.

While businesses are beginning to reopen across the nation after a long shut down, local governments have continued to provide essential services because, as James Inman, City Manager for Bessemer City, NC notes in Southern City Magazine, “the water has to flow.”

Things might seem like they are getting back to normal, but the economic impact of coronavirus shutdowns cannot be understated for local governments. Because cities rely on their local economies as a source of revenue, the shutdowns have put them behind. This combined with the fact that many states only collect revenue from one or two sources has the potential to result in serious cuts to essential public services.

Is there anything that can be done to support cities and the services they provide?

The NLC seems optimistic.

A recent article shows they are advocating for the restoration of tax-exempt advance refundings, municipal bond caps to be raised, and for the Federal Reserve to revise Municipal Liquidity Facility rules to increase direct access to credit. Moreover, the NLC is pushing for $500 billion in direct federal aid for local governments over the next two years to soften impending budget shortfalls with the Cities Are Essential campaign. For now, the prospects look good considering that many of these initiatives are receiving bipartisan support in Congress.

The true impact of the COVID-19 crisis remains to be seen. However state and local officials are doing their best to be proactive and ensure essential services remain unaffected. Unity is paramount and the common ground exhibited in these efforts is reassuring in a time characterized by rising tensions and increased political dysfunction. “Cities are the engine of the American economy,” says NLC President, Joe Buscaino. “We want to get our engines running – and we can, if we stand together.”

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