The mayors of Chicago and Seattle are responding to the coronavirus pandemic that’s spread through their cities, but they say only the federal government has the resources needed to see communities through the ensuing economic crisis.
“This is a B- and T-sized problem, meaning trillion and billion dollars that are going to have to fix it,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said during a virtual Bloomberg briefing on social inequality on Thursday. “There is no city government, no state government that has that kind of discretionary funds.”
While cities have to take action immediately, rather than wait for direction from the federal government, Lightfoot is pushing for more federal assistance. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan underscored that the virus has “shown a bright light on the social inequities” that exist, and businesses have closed because of government actions in response to the pandemic. Small businesses and health-care systems need aid at a scale only the federal government can provide, Durkan said.
“The nation has to step in to buffer this,” Durkan added.
Lightfoot and Durkan’s comments echo pleas from local leaders across the country who are grappling with how to provide services and balance budgets during their worst fiscal crisis in decades. The federal stimulus provides $150 billion for municipalities but is focused on reimbursing states and large cities for costs related to fighting Covid-19, not lost revenue.
As case counts in some parts of the country have started to slow or decline, the questions of how to restart economies, take care of the most vulnerable populations and pay for government operations loom large. President Donald Trump offered up a multi-step plan to do just that on Thursday.
“We seem to have bent our curve and are on the way down,” Durkan said. “The people who had less economic resilience were the ones to feel it first. We’ve been pushing really hard: how do we support those people.”
Chicago is about two weeks behind Seattle in terms of the timeline for cases and has just recently begun to flatten its curve, Lightfoot said. The Chicago mayor said her administration is in constant contact with its Congressional delegation regarding federal aid because so far it’s not enough.
“We certainly appreciate the money that’s flowed in the first CARES Act,” Lightfoot said. “It’s not replacing our lost revenues, which is an issue we really have to focus on in the next go-around.”
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