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Arizona poll shows overwhelming support for federal aid to states, cities, towns, schools

Arizona poll shows overwhelming support for federal aid to states, cities, towns, schools
By AFSCME Staff ·

The Grand Canyon State is looking for a grand gesture of support from Congress.

A new AFSCME poll of Arizona voters shows 75% want Congress to provide federal aid to help struggling states, cities, towns and schools in their state weather the financial storm unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Support for state and local aid was bipartisan. The poll, released this week, also showed very little support – just 17% – for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s suggestion that states should declare bankruptcy to get out of their financial obligations to their citizens.

AFSCME members are pushing the U.S. Senate to pass at least $1 trillion in aid to state and local governments, which are reeling from huge revenue drops caused by the pandemic. In May, the House of Representatives passed a relief bill – the Heroes Act – that includes that level of support to states and localities, but the Senate has hemmed and hawed and little else.

States, cities, towns and school districts are increasingly letting go of the very public service workers whose work is needed more than ever during a public health crisis. More than 1.6 million public sector jobs have already been lost, roughly three times the number cut during the entire Great Recession.

On a conference call Wednesday, Flagstaff, Arizona, Mayor Coral Evans and Phoenix Vice Mayor Betty Guardado joined front-line workers to discuss the cost of federal inaction if Arizona’s cities, towns and schools don’t receive federal assistance from the next coronavirus relief package – especially as cases rise and schools prepare to reopen.

Evans said Flagstaff (population 76,000) didn’t receive aid under previous coronavirus relief packages because it was too small to qualify; communities had to have at least 500,000 people to qualify.

“It’s time our smaller and more rural communities got some relief because we are also hurting,” Evans said. “If we don’t act soon, in cities across Arizona we could be looking at longer 9-1-1 response times, trash piling up and an unnecessarily prolonged economic crisis that will result in greater job losses.”

Guardado noted that the House passed its relief bill two months ago and urged the Senate to act without delay.

Our communities don’t have time for brinkmanship,” she said. “Let’s pass this aid, let’s keep our nurses, emergency medical workers, sanitation and water treatment specialists and many others on the job and fund the services we need.”

Absent federal aid to states, cities and towns, economists predict a prolonged depression. Every dollar invested in public services, they say, will yield $1.70 in economic activity. Business leaders, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have called on Congress to pass aid. Mayors and governors of both parties have been asking for federal assistance since March.

Such aid would help public service workers like AFSCME Local 2960 member Jose Vejar, a utility service specialist with the City of Phoenix Water Department, stay on the job and continue to provide the services that Arizonans are demanding more and more in this time of crisis.

Vejar said he has been very busy since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and fields numerous calls from “panicked residents worried that we will cut off their utilities because they can no longer afford to pay their bills.”

“Keeping front-line workers like myself on the job is essential to making sure we are able to beat this virus,” Vejar said. “No one worries about whether clean, safe water will come out of their faucets in the morning, until it doesn’t happen. I can’t tell you how many times a day I hear, ‘Thank you. If you hadn’t helped me, I wouldn’t know where to turn.’”

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