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Not a handout or a bailout: Mayors plead with Senators for COVID-19 funds

Mayors want their own plate, not the scraps.

As Congress deliberates the latest round of COVID-19 assistance, cities are asking Florida’s senators for their own cut of the pie.

Florida received $8.3 billion in federal aid under the CARES Act, but a coalition of mayors on Thursday told Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott that only one Florida city qualified for direct federal support. More cities require direct assistance, the mayors argue.

Members of the Florida League of Mayors and Florida League of Cities warned in a joint letter that they may have to cut staff and services, a last resort during the pandemic.

“This is not a request for a handout, nor a call for a federal bailout,” reads a letter signed Thursday by 163 mayors.

Only government bodies that serve half a million residents received direct federal aid. Twelve qualifying counties — Brevard, Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Lee, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Orange and Volusia — received $2.5 billion in direct payments from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The state’s remaining 45 counties later received $1.3 billion of the state’s $5.9 billion funds.

Jacksonville was the only city to meet the population threshold.

The latest national economic report, which on Thursday revealed a record-shattering 33% economic contraction last quarter, magnify the need for federal assistance.

“As we face diminished revenues, any cuts to our staff impact both the ability to provide those services and contribute to our economic downturn,” the mayors wrote. “Absent direct federal assistance, we will be forced to cut our workforce, exacerbating the economic and public health crisis we face.”

With federal assistance, cities could support jobs and businesses through low-interest loans, grants and other programs, they added.

In recent weeks, Republican Senators and the White House have struggled to see eye to eye on the anticipated pandemic aid package. But Republicans are coming closer to making a counteroffer to House Democrats.

“This was our last chance to advocate to Congress on the importance of providing direct federal funding to Florida’s municipalities, which have been significantly impacted by COVID-19,” said Kevin Ruane, president of the Florida League of Mayors and mayor of the City of Sanibel.

Some proposals have included expanding how governments can use CARES Act funds. But the mayors spurned those plans as insufficient.

“Since 410 of FL’s 411 cities were excluded from the CARES Act, this is not going to solve the problem, and that’s why additional funding is needed,” according to the letter. “In fact, expanding the use of previously distributed dollars may serve as an even bigger disincentive and may encourage recipient counties to not share the dollars they received.”

Instead, the mayors are asking for a dedicated portion of the federal support bill redux to keep businesses afloat and communities and first responders safe.

“Our cities have been an important part of the COVID-19 response,” they said. “We must also be an important part of the recovery.”

Written By

Renzo Downey covers the Florida Legislature for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at renzo@floridapolitics.com and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Sonja Fitch

    July 31, 2020 at 12:04 pm

    Because of the goptrump cult sociopaths Moscow Mitch , Nazi Rick, Little Marco and the other cult scum America will have $10Billions dollars less to spend and every week after that til Moscow Mitch and Nazi Rick and little Marco do their damn job😭’nnnn! Consumer confidence is abysmal!

  2. martin

    July 31, 2020 at 1:16 pm

    Let them lay off “non-essential personnel”. Let them cut back spending on expense accounts, travel, meals, and other perks. Let them tighten their belts a notch just like all the rest of us have. Let them take pay cuts just like those in the private sector have.

    If they are dem’s and they have spoken about defunding the police, now is their chance.

    But they will not do any of this. They will just continue to tax and spend, and ask for handouts.

    And border line psycho’s like the above will continue to ramble on while making no sense what-so-ever.

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